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What are the best ways to help a loved one?
Here are some ways that patients and their families can help elicit the type of social support they want from others:
1. Banish secrets. Families often want to protect each other from bad news, but keeping secrets in itself is stressful, and prohibits others from joining in the common mission of helping.
2. Include your children. Taking age into account, if children sense they are being excluded, they may think they've done something wrong. Reduce their anxiety and guilt by explaining to them (again, age appropriately) and coming up with some ways they can help.
3. Be selective. Under the strains of a serious illness, some relationships strengthen, while others become weaker. Save your energy and disengage from social obligations.
4. Tell others clearly how they can help. Don't be shy about asking for help; friends and family usually want to help and don't know how. Bringing a meal over once a month. Calling other family members with updated information. Driving patient to medical appointment. Less glamorous jobs like walking the dog, doing the laundry. Let others know how to take the burden of the day-to-day activities.
* Article "How to Help a Friend or Loved One" from Mind Body Medicine, Social Support chapter by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.
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