When A Parent Is Sick: How To Care For Your Loved One

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By Abiola Abrams

Having a loved one in the hospital can be a very scary experience. We feel our our fears plus we are nervous for the people we love and don’t like to see them in pain. Many of us are used to rubbing the tummy of a little one or nursing your significant other back to health, but what about when the patient is the person who raised you? How does the treatment game change when the sick person is your parent?

Although most of us figure that at some point we will have to offer care to our parents, nothing can really prepare you for the role reversal that takes place when a parent is sick. One of my parents recently had a health scare and it was a devastating and terrifying experience. I also realize how blessed and lucky I am that I have both of my parents, who love me and each other.

Realize that this is a stressful time for you and all involved.

Here are the dos and don’ts of how to approach your parents’ illness.

DO speak directly with the healthcare team to see what is involved.

Be as involved as you can. Gather all of your parent’s records, know all of the doctors, and keep the lines of communication open. Some hospitals and healthcare providers may have shoddy record keeping skills. Be sure to read everything and know what is going on.

DO work with your siblings or other family members.

Make caring for your parent a team effort. Keep all siblings and key family members informed. Make a “care calendar” where you can each take a different shift to make sure that your loved one is attended to and cared for.

DO honor your parents’ wishes.

It is a blessing that you get to care for your family in this way. Our parents loved up on us and now it is our turn. That being said, you may disagree with your parent’s care plan. You may believe in holistic treatments and they prefer modern medicine. They may want a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate Plan, and you disagree. If your parent is of sound mind, they are still in charge of themselves. Honor their wishes. Make decisions in the best interest of your parent, not yourself.

DO put family beefs aside.

When there is a crisis situation, emotions run high. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone, not just you. It doesn’t matter right now that you and Pookie fell out at age 17 over him telling on you. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture, the health and well-being of your parent.

DON’T hesitate to do your own research on conditions or diagnosis.

While many of us use WebMD to terrify ourselves, there are many benefits to having medical info at our fingertips. You are not authorized to diagnose anything but you should definitely do your research. Explore the symptoms and issues your parents are experiencing online. Check out the blogs of others who have thrived and overcome similar circumstances. Prepare your own questions, theories, and ideas you can present to your parent’s medical team. Your doctor may have 50 patients so your research could be valuable.

DO be honest with your kids.

Be straight up with your children about what is going on. Explain it to them to the best of their learning ability. Let them know that Grandma or Grandpa is not feeling well. If the hospital allows it, let them see their grandparent. It may be healing for all parties involved.

DON’T be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Doctors are amazing, but they are not gods. A good doctor will welcome and value a second opinion. Doctors are diagnosing based on their education and experience, but they are still human beings. Human beings make mistakes. It is your right to ask for another opinion on diagnosis or treatment.

DON’T see this as a chance to get revenge on a parent who may have been physically or emotionally unavailable.

It is not unheard of to be suddenly called into play to care for a parent who was not there, was abusive to you, or was just not able to be who you needed. If you place yourself in the positive of caretaker, come from the heart. This is not a chance for justice, karma, or revenge.

DON’T neglect your own self-care.

The reason they say put on your own mask for oxygen on the plane is that you can’t help anyone else if you become infirmed too. Being a caretaker can feel thankless and depleting. Be sure to love up on yourself. Have a practice of prayer or meditation to get you through it. Go to the gym or take yoga to get your feelings out. Neglecting yourself could be detrimental.

DON’T go it all alone.
You may not want to burden anyone with your troubles but you can’t go it alone. This would be mentally unhealthy for you. Go to a therapist, coach, or support group. Spend time with your spiritual or religious community.

DON’T let this situation rip you apart as a family.

This is a difficult time for everyone involved. Allow it to bring your closer and let it be a beautiful time of love, grace and caring.


Sending prayers of health and wellness to your family.

Abiola Abrams is the author of the award-winning guide The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love and founder of SacredBombshell.com, where she offers empowerment coaching. 

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