When someone close to you is diagnosed with a chronic illness like pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP), it can be overwhelming and difficult. Whether you are the partner, parent, sibling, child or close friend, you will often feel many of the same fears and frustrations as the one who is ill. In addition, you have to deal with all the practical challenges that occur when your relative is ill.
You may feel scared, angry, powerless, and experience a lot of other overwhelming feelings. It is only natural. But once the initial shock has settled, you will realise that you are not at all powerless. You are a very important support for your relative, and just being there means the world. Research has shown that family and friends can play an important role in helping patients deal with a chronic illness.
The most important thing for people suffering from a chronic illness like PAP is to feel cared for and to know that they are not alone. As a relative, you can be an enormous support by learning about the disease, helping out with daily errands and chores. For instance, you can offer to help out with cleaning, shopping, gardening and cooking dinner, go for a walk together, help with breathing and relaxation exercises, etc. And by accepting that your relative may need more rest than usual.
Last but not least, you can offer emotional support. It is important to have someone to share one’s thoughts, fears and frustrations with. It helps your relative to process the news, and accept and adapt to the new situation. When a person is diagnosed with a chronic and life-changing disease, it is a great support not to have to face all the changes alone.