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How do chronic illnesses affect family relationships?

There are several ways that chronic illness can influence family life:

  • Daily routines may change because the limitations of the ill member and the demands of treatment may require that others be more available.
  • Families may need to share care giving responsibilities; this helps all members feel they are contributing to a loved one's welfare and it also protects any single member from caregiver fatigue.
  • Family members may experience strong emotions, such as guilt, anger, sadness, fear, anxiety and depressed mood. These are normal reactions to stress. It is useful to talk about these emotions within the family.
  • The ill member may need to find ways to be as independent as possible, given the limitations that the illness causes.
  • Despite the demands of the illness, families may need to work hard to maintain a sense of "normal" life. This can benefit the ill member, as well; it may help him or her integrate into family life more and may reduce the ill member's sense of guilt regarding the demands the illness places on the family as a whole.

Chronic illnesses have an effect on the entire family and relationships within the family. If a child has a chronic illness, the illness doesn’t just affect one child but the whole family. For example, a lot of the time, parents feel more protective of a child with a chronic illness, showing that child more attention, which can make the child's siblings feel left out. Growing up is hard; growing up with an illness can be even harder.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.