As a parent it’s probably the worst thing you can ever imagine, the serious illness, injury or death of your child. I know the thought terrifies me, and I know some of you, my readers, my friends, have lived through this. I was contacted by the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund (KADMF) asking if I’d like to share information written by their founder, Kelly’s mother, Peggy Dolan.
Tragically Kelly Anne Dolan was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and her parents Peggy and Joe learned how the serious illness of a child can affect an entire family–emotionally, physically, and financially. I’m sharing this because either you or someone you know may be going through just such a time, and I hope you will share it with them. I believe it will help.
Being a parent of a seriously ill, disabled or injured child places one in a precarious position. Trauma, illness and hospitalizations upset daily routines and test even the strongest relationships. What can be done to keep your head on straight, your health strong and outlook hopeful? Even what may seem like superficial changes may make a world of difference in surviving the many pressures involved with the care of a seriously ill child.
Peggy Dolan, founder and Executive Director of the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund (KADMF), believes the following tips will help to maintain normalcy during your child’s time of crisis. The ripple effect of how parents handle these situations can have both short-term and long-term effects on their children and relationships.
- Ask for and accept help. Friends, neighbors and family members often feel helpless – they care about you and want to ease your burdens. Even the smallest act of kindness will make a big difference. This is no time for pride to stand in the way of getting a break. Friends could pick your children up from school or a family member could bring dinner to the hospital. Say “yes” to financial support, if offered.
- It’s easy to look beaten down and bedraggled after worry and sleepless nights take their toll – fight it. When all aspects of your life may seem unmanageable, your appearance and personal hygiene are two areas of which you have control. Looking in the mirror and seeing the person you remember from better times can boost your confidence and optimism. Dress as if you were going to the office, fix your hair and put on make-up. Smile. Your kids will be comforted in seeing you look like your old self and love you for it.
- The stress of caring for a seriously ill child can make you sick. A proven reliever of stress is exercise. If you can’t find time to get to the gym, a break in your routine could allow for a walk around the block. Even 15 minutes a day will boost your immune system, strengthen your muscles and lower your blood pressure. If you can’t leave the house – exercise indoors. OnDemand offers thousands of exercise programs and there are countless exercise DVD’s. Stay well. A child’s anxiety and stress will only worsen if the caregiver gets sick.
- Eat healthy. When parents are dealing with trauma, exhausting schedules, overwhelming medical appointments, protocols and treatments, eating habits often go one of two ways –you can’t stomach the thought of eating or you unconsciously eat anything in sight. Weight loss and gain are the consequences, but either way, your energy is negatively affected. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables handy. Nuts, seeds and whole grains are all good foods for a balanced metabolism.
- Depend on your spouse, significant other or best friend. This person wants to be your shoulder to lean on, ear to bend, or home grown counselor to talk to and confide in. They will undoubtedly assist with difficult choices and will help to ease internal fears of the future. Don’t keep bad thoughts, hurts and misunderstandings to yourself – they will weigh you down. Be open.
- Spirituality is a personal thing. Embrace your vulnerability. Hope for peace, wisdom and acceptance. Meditate and find your center. Be calm and stay focused on the care of your children, yourself and your spouse. Be filled with hope.
This information is happily shared at the request and with the permission of the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund (KADMF). KADMF, headquartered in Ambler, Pa., advocates for families with seriously ill, physically and cognitively challenged, or severely injured children nationwide through information and education.
The Fund is celebrating its 35th Anniversary in 2011-12. For more information or to donate, please visit http://www.kadmf.org. This information is being shared pro bono. If you find this information helpful feel free to share it with others; even if you don’t personally know a family struggling with this, one of your friends will.