September is Pain Awareness Month. It’s not easy balancing your care giving role and other parts of your life when you care for someone with a chronic health condition. Taking care of a chronically ill child, parent, spouse, or friend can be one of the most draining and difficult tasks we can face.

I have experienced chronic pain through my adult daughter’s illness; endometriosis. She has endured six surgeries and continues to be in daily chronic pain, even after surgery. Endometriosis is a painful, chronic disease that affects at least 6.3 million women and girls in the U.S. It is a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.

Regardless of age, having a child or family member who has a chronic illness, is not only challenging for them, it affects caregivers and other family members. Family dynamics can be severely tested when a child is sick. Doctor visits, surgical procedures, and frequent checkups can throw everyone’s schedule off and take an emotional and physical toll on relationships and the entire family. It is not uncommon for everyone to become angry, resentful and stressed. 

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As parents we do not want to see our children in pain.We want the very best for them. However, many times this is totally out of our control. It is a difficult process to accept that your child has a chronic illness…whether it be physical or mental illness. How can parents treat a child with a chronic illness?  Children with chronic illness benefit from parents normalizing the situation in an accepting way and can help them by brainstorming together on new coping strategies.

When a child is sick, parents tend to become overprotective. We tend to shelter them or limit their activities because of our own fears. On the other hand, some parents become overly permissive and allow their child more freedom, less structure and try to over compensate for their illness by doing too much for them. There is a fine line between helping them and enabling them. Can they do this for themselves, or do they need assistance. 

Oftentimes it is difficult to decipher whether we are over-doing it or it is truly warranted. In younger children, we potentially are now adding a discipline problem as well. Often this requires accepting that their lifestyle has changed and what was possible at one time no longer is. There is grieving involved in this process for the patient, parent and family. Making adjustments and adapting to new ways is crucial in overcoming any type of chronic illness or pain. What once was, no longer is and this type of thinking requires acceptance and adjustments.

Anyone who has been touched by a loved one’s chronic illness, whether it be endometriosis, cancer, asthma ,mental illness, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, back pain, Crohn’s disease, to name a few of the many, understands the heartache in both patient and care giver. Remember that the chronic illness does not come only with physical pain, it comes with emotional pain and distress accompanied with guilt about their own worries regarding their future as well as the impact it has on their family members. There are many wonderful support groups for families to join to help them during this difficult time.  Hellenic Therapy Center is beginning a chronic pain/illness support group in October.

At the Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, we have a team of licensed professionals available day, evening and weekend hours who can work with you and your family to navigate during this difficult time.  Call us to learn about our chronic pain group. Visit www.hellenictherapy.com or call 908-322-0112.