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How to cope when your grandparent is sick

Your parents sit you and your siblings down, and you immediately get the sense that something isn't quite right. They quickly fill you in: Your grandparent has been diagnosed with a mental or physical ailment, such as dementia. The emotions hit you in waves. It can feel incredibly overwhelming to watch as your family grapples with the ripple-effects of a loved one's illness. While nothing can make watching someone you love being put through the ringer painless, below are a few tips to help you cope.

Let yourself feel all the feels

While hiding your emotions to protect the rest of your family may seem like a good idea, it isn't. You need to find healthy ways to express what you're feeling that work for you. There isn't a one-size-fits-all guide to processing difficult emotions. For you, doing so might simply entail allowing yourself to cry for a while. On the other hand, you might find it helpful to channel your anxiety into baking a yummy treat for the rest of your fam or writing a song on your guitar. Whatever it is that you have to do, do it, and don't be ashamed or afraid of your emotions. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing.

Ask for help when you need it

Your friends and family exist for a reason. If you're feeling lost and unsure where to turn, reach out for help. Your friends, especially those that have been through similar situations, may have empathy and advice to offer. If you feel uncomfortable talking to them in person, shoot them a text message. You'll be surprised by the comfort that a simple reply saying they're thinking of you can provide.

Meanwhile, the adults around you have access to a lifetime of experiences to go off of as well as resources that you may not be aware of that can help you get through this rough patch. Always remember that knowing yourself well enough to ask for support is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Show your parents a little extra love

Your parents may be adults, but that doesn't mean that they have it all figured out. They're probably struggling, too, even if it isn't always evident on the surface. If they're a little bit more impatient, forgetful or on-edge, keep in mind that it may be due to the stress of your grandparent's condition weighing on them. Cut them some slack and try to remind them you love them in little ways whenever you can. An act of kindness that may seem totally trivial to you just might make their day or even their week.

Enjoy moments of laughter with your grandparent

It's true that laughter is the best medicine. Some of my favorite memories of my grandparents are completely outrageous moments that led to the kind of laughter that makes your stomach hurt.Rather than allowing their condition to get in the way, love your grandparents for their unwittingly annoying comments about your love life and not 100% PC jokes while they're still with you. A sense of humor can carry you a long way.

Have you ever dealt with a sick grandparent? Share what it was like below. 

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by Katherine Logan | 11/29/2017
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