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How to support a loved one diagnosed with a serious health condition

Written by Diane Archer

Sachin H. Jain writes for Forbes about the importance of understanding how difficult a grave diagnosis can be for a patient. Many people do not want to accept the fact that they have a serious condition, let alone a life-threatening illness. If your loved ones are diagnosed with a serious condition, try to appreciate why they might be in denial and help them manage their emotions.

Jain explains that being told that you have a serious health condition is a lot like hearing that someone you love has died. People feel grief and often struggle to accept reality. Denial can be a way for people to protect themselves. It is a coping mechanism which permits people to move forward with their lives. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel burdened and at a standstill.

For sure, accepting a diagnosis of a serious health condition also can be helpful. Acceptance can lead people to change their behaviors or seek medical treatment. Often acceptance follows denial.

For family members and caregivers who want only the best for their loved ones, it can be hard to see them in denial about a serious illness. You want your loved ones to modify their behaviors in order to extend their lives. But, that may not happen immediately. It’s therefore best for you to be patient and not judge your loved ones for failing to act as you would want them to.

As a general rule, you and other caregivers should accompany the people you love when they visit the doctor. It can help them manage their sadness and fear. If the sadness and fear is recognized and discussed, rather than suppressed, behavioral modifications and other treatments are generally easier to follow.

Do not focus on a loved one’s denial of a condition or non-compliance with treatment recommendations. Recognize how hard it is to face a serious health condition and how such a diagnosis can be scary and cause sadness.

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