Working with a Family Affected by Chronic Pain or Illness; Tips on caring for the family as a whole

As a 32 year old mother living with severe chronic pain stemming from autoimmune disease. I am unable to clean my house, care for my garden, and I also need a lot of helping caring for my 3 year old son, Jimmy. As a mom, I want to give him the world- take him to interesting places, go on hikes, pick him up and squeeze him.. but unfortunately, I am routinely unable to do many of even the most basic tasks of parenting. If you work for a family like mine, there are many simple things that you can do to truly help them; and earn their deepest gratitude and trust in the process.

Take the children on outings.

Children learn by exploring their environment. When a parent you work for has chronic pain or illness, they are likely unable to regularly do “special” activities with their child, or even basics, like simply walking their child to the playground, or pushing them on the swing,  Make outings and “special” trips – family friendly farms in Loudoun County, museums, markets, fairs, nature walks.. anything that gets the child out of the house and doing something active!  Take pictures on your phone of the child during the outings.  When you’re done; write a short note about the joyful time the kids had, and share photos.  Hearing about their children’s experiences; even if they weren’t able to share them, is something that will be treasured and remembered; for years to come.  Click here for my top 4 “Educational and fun activities for kids in Loudoun,” or if its a rainy day, the top “indoor play places” in Loudoun County.

Teach and encourage organization and picking-up.

Picking up toys is probably the most difficult chore for a parent with chronic pain or illness to do.  Bending over repeatedly can cause severe back pain and spasms. Even if they have a house cleaning service, children, as you know, can tear a room apart in a matter of minutes!  Better yet, teach and encourage the children to pick up after themselves; even 2 year olds are able to help clean up.  That way, you will give the parents a gift that will last! Click here for a guide on how toddlers can help out around the house. *Pulling up weeds may also make a parent weep tears of gratitude!

Educate yourself, listen and support.

Google the condition that the parent has, so you can better understand how to help them.  Demonstrate your support: People with chronic pain and illness often are afraid to be seen as “complainers,” or to be judged to be “a burden,” or “lazy.” Make it clear that you believe their pain is real (chronic pain is often invisible; the parent may look completely healthy). Ask them how they’re feeling that day, and if there’s anything special that you can do to help them. Even if they don’t specify anything, keep asking; once they gain your trust, they will be more likely to open up.  Having someone that truly listens is pure gold to someone with chronic pain or illness.  Support the children. Encourage them to talk about their parents illness; ask them how they feel, and validate them. The children may have feelings of sadness, or even anger.  Read them books like “Why Does Mommy Hurt? Helping Children Cope with the Challenges of having a Parent or Caregiver with Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, or Autoimmune Disease.” Opening up communication in the family about a parents condition is another gift that could last a lifetime!

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Elizabeth Christy

Elizabeth Christy is an author, writer, and IT professional living in Sterling VA. She lives with her husband James and 4 year old son, Jimmy. In addition to basic survival, Elizabeth enjoys reading, sewing, and nature. She also runs the nonprofit organization "Books and Bottles", which promotes reading to young children. (Facebook.com/booksandbottlesorg

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