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environment by trying to settle yourself down first. Go into the talk only after you've asked yourself: What are my needs? How will this affect the person I'm telling? Know your audience. This is particularly important if there are children you'll need to speak to about your diagnosis. Different age groups will have different kinds of concerns: Preschoolers may worry you'll go away and won't come back (so give them a talk that's light on details of your condition but heavy on details of how you or a trusted family member will support them); school-age kids stress about how your diagnosis will directly affect them (have answers to questions like, "Will we need to move? Will I have to quit my after-school soccer league?"); and teens may get thrown into a bit of existential despair (be ready to listen and help them talk through big questions like, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"). Pay attention in the days and weeks after you've shared your diagnosis for signs your child is withdrawing or acting out. "You need to be really aware and look for indications they may be struggling with it," Kelleher says. Understand they may not take the news well. It's natural to withdraw in the face of potentially devastating news. "People have all sorts of hidden beliefs about illness," Kelleher says. You have no idea whether, say, your diabetes diagnosis triggers memories of the suffering a cherished aunt may have gone through with the same condition. Allow them to react, and reassure them it's OK with you that they're upset about the news. Then, when they're ready to learn more, offer to set up an appointment with your primary care physician for the two of you so your doctor can explain what your diagnosis really means. "The reality is, the more support a patient has, the better the outcome tends to be," Kelleher says. Emphasize that you'll get through it together. Make it clear to friends and family that while you're the one who is dealing with the physical effects of illness, you understand that your diagnosis will take a toll on them, too. Just telling someone that you're in this together can be remarkably helpful for the coping process. "It's the difference between it being a tragedy and a difficult moment in your life," Kelleher says. Consider outside help. If you're particularly worried about sharing the news with your loved ones, talk to your doctor about bringing in a family therapist whose practice focuses on dealing with medical issues (your physician may have referrals). A therapist is a great resource to call upon the moment you start feeling overwhelmed, because he or she will understand the toll that illnesses can take on both you and your loved ones. "When you're sick, it doesn't just affect your body, it affects your emotions and relationships as well," Kelleher says. "Struggling alone can make the journey a lot more difficult." n A CHRONIC CONVERSATION Sharing difficult news with people one time is hard enough, but what if you've been diagnosed with a condition where you must enlist friends, family members or co-workers in your care? For example: Someone who has started to have seizures needs to have a plan of action to help people around him or her know what to do when symptoms strike. Develop step-by-step instructions for your care if you have a medical event. Clearly denote what should be done and in what order. (Should 911 be called immediately, or do you need to be given insulin ASAP?) Distribute this clear, concise "cheat sheet" to those closest to you in case of emergency. Keep this document in your common spaces, too, like near your desk at work or on the fridge at home. CALL Help Close to Home Gwinnett Medical Center has faith community nurses in a variety of organizations in our region. These specially trained providers can help families with communication, resources and spiritual support. Learn more by calling 678-312-2467. WIN TE R 2016 41

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2016 - Gwinnett Medical Center

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