As a parent, your first instinct is to protect your child and keep him safe, so it’s particularly challenging when you find yourself in a situation where you can’t do that. Medical diagnoses can be frustrating and frightening, and when you learn your child has been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may feel helpless, confused, and overwhelmed.
Chronic illnesses, which are diseases that last for at least three months at a time, can limit a child’s normal activities. These illnesses, which include diabetes, depression, and heart disease, can be life-changing. They often require significant medical treatment, which can mean multiple doctor’s appointments or frequent hospital visits. You may feel upset for your child after a diagnosis and, in some cases, may even feel like you’re mourning lost opportunities and chances that this new diagnosis has taken away from your child.
But those feelings don’t have to last. There are many ways that you can cope and learn to live with your child’s illness.
Take Steps to Prepare Financially
Chronic illnesses can be financially draining. If your child needs immediate care and you’re underinsured or uninsured, look into local free or sliding scale clinics to help keep the cost of your bills down. Community health centers may offer services at a lower cost than you’ll find at traditional medical offices, saving you money while you ensure your child’s immediate healthcare needs are met.
If your child needs surgery, financial assistance programs may be available to help minimize its cost. If you’re uninsured, you may need to look into taking out a personal loan or exploring a debt settlement program to cover the cost of a significant, unexpected surgery. If you’re underinsured, you’ll have more options, and you may be able to negotiate with the hospital to reduce your bills. Medicaid may also cover some or all of a surgery’s expenses, even retroactively.
Take some time to make sure that you and your family are covered by a health insurance plan. The ACA Health Insurance Marketplace can help connect you with your state’s available insurance plans. You can make an appointment with a local center or call the Marketplace Call Center for help finding the right plan.
Create a Plan to Manage the Illness
Your child’s chronic illness may be incurable, but there are still plenty of ways that you can help your child live with the condition. Talk with your child’s doctor about lifestyle modifications that would help, like reducing stress, incorporating regular exercise, or changing your child’s diet. Some illnesses, like diabetes, can be well managed with dietary changes. Stocking your home with snacks that won’t spike blood sugar can help to control diabetes symptoms and improve your child’s overall health.
If medication will help to control the condition, then it’s time to start getting your child accustomed to taking medicine. Some medications are available in kid-friendly flavors, and your child’s doctor may be able to prescribe a medicine that is concentrated or that your child has to take less often. Ask the doctor if it’s safe to crush up pills and add them to food. If your child needs to learn to swallow pills, you can make the process easier by putting pills into applesauce or Jell-O and starting with small pill pieces before working up to the full size.
As you establish a management plan for your child’s condition, be sure to also get his teachers involved. Communicate with the teachers and staff at your child’s school so that they understand your child’s condition and can take steps to help keep your child healthy while at school.
Prioritize Your Whole Family’s Health
It’s easy to overlook your own well-being and health in caring for your child, but that won’t help you or your family. Instead, take the approach of prioritizing your whole family’s health – including your own. Focus on improving your mental and physical health with methods like creating and sticking to a sleep schedule, taking up a hobby that keeps you active, and adopting your own space and taking some time for yourself. Encourage your whole family to put these tips to use, too.
Dealing with a chronic illness is stressful, and once your child is stabilized, your family might benefit from a vacation. Traveling can have a positive effect on your physical and mental health. Traveling can significantly increase your activity level for improved fitness, and just three days of travel can reduce stress and anxiety levels. Taking a vacation or trip might be the perfect way to shift the focus from your child’s illness to enjoying your time together as a family.
By putting effort into your health, you can be a healthier, happier parent, and your whole family will benefit. Remember that learning to cope with your child’s diagnosis is a shock and a challenge. Things will get better and you’ll learn how to help your child and your family with this new condition.