Chronic illness is a term applied to a broad range of diseases that is long lasting in its effects and that vary greatly both in their essential characteristics and the ways in which they affect a family system and its adaptive functioning. Every family is a balanced system and after learning of a member’s chronic illness, a family will experience some loss of equilibrium. The illness can cause emotional distress throughout, impair the ability to properly support the member and particularly if each member is attempting to deal with his own fears and frustrations alone.
The first issue to consider when it comes to the impact of a chronic illness is how the disease actually affects the family’s capacity to fulfill its essential purposes: for example, providing material security for its members, providing for their developmental needs, and providing care and support for ill and disabled members. The second issue is the impact of critical components of family functioning, includes family structural and organizational patterns, communication processes, multigenerational patterns and the family life cycle, and family belief systems (Rolland, 1994).
Let say a child get sick, the mother and father may or will become consumed with the care of their sick child, and sometime at the expense of nearly everything else in their lives. In that situation the parents may find themselves almost constantly investigating new options, reading about alternative treatments, and pondering the future: Is there a better medication for my child? Is it worth getting another doctor's opinion? Can I be doing more? As a parent, you might sometimes feel that the demands upon you are endless, from trips to the doctor's office to the preparation of special meals. You may feel constantly fatigued, never able to recoup your energy. If anything gets sacrificed, it is often time spent with your spouse, or time for your own personal interests and pursuits. On the other hand, a child's chronic illness might have some positive effects on families. A child with health problems may bring parents and other family members closer. Families, especially those who communicate openly, may be strengthened by experiences associated with managing their child's health impairment. In many cases, the family's management of a child's chronic illness may provide them with a sense of cohesiveness, mission and pride. The way a disease affects a family also depends on the nature of the disease itself. Family members who are not the one with the chronic disease may have to adapt their roles in the family significantly to accommodate the caregiving demands that the ill person required. For example, my aunt is the primary care giver for my grandmother, she feel obligated by the conventions of gender socialization to act as her primary caregiver despite not being the only child, despite the detrimental consequences to her career, the family income, and her emotional availability to other family members.
Most families also have belief system that both reinforce their identity and enable them to make sense of everyday complexities and crises, including those that are introduced by the onset and progression of chronic disease. Many families hold to the belief (religious traditions) that the episodes of crisis that accompany the progression of illness represent a test of the family’s faith and fortitude. While this belief may enable some families’ members to make sense of the crisis at hand and the losses that may accompany it, for others, it may seem that a new crisis represents a divine reaction to a failure of faith.
Family is a unit system with different layer, that system is disrupted when one of the members develops a chronic illness. It disrupts their self-images and self-esteem. It results in uncertain and unpredictable futures, which can trigger distressing emotions, anxiety, depression, resentments, financial burden and feelings of helplessness
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