This is a guest post by Tamara Greenberg.Tamara McClintock Greenberg,Psy.D., M.S., is a psychologist and psychotherapist in San Francisco, as well as an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. She studies health psychology, psychoanalytic psychology, and the integration of the two. She supervises and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area on the culture of Western Medicine, psychotherapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and medical consultation. Find out more about her hereor here.
First, the good news: We are all living longer lives. Now, the bad news: We are all living longer lives.
We are living in an unprecedented time in the worlds of medicine and longevity. Technology has changed the entire landscape of medicine and life in general. When many very elderly people were born, life expectancy was around 54 years of age. Now, we all face a life span of much more than that, with recent statistics suggesting that average lifespan is almost 80 years of age. Many of us will live even longer. Though there are some concerns that obesity and other lifestyle factors may shorten life in current generations, the reality is that medicine can do what it has not been done before. Modern medicine often allows us to extend our lives, even if quality of life is a necessary sacrifice.
Illness will impact many of us as we age. If we are lucky and do not have to confront a serious illness ourselves, chances are someone close to us will.
When Someone You Love Has a Chronic Illness is designed to help loved ones who know first-hand about the realities of chronic illness. This book will offer pragmatic strategies for loved ones, but will probe deeper into what it means to cope with the challenges of chronic illness and to face the changes in close relationships that can result. Sickness does not occur in a vacuum. Particularly when illness impacts a parent or a spouse, illness occurs in the context of relationship dynamics and relationship histories. The tasks of coping are influenced by our own psychologies, the dynamics of patients and what has transpired in the history of the relationship. I discuss important ways that loved ones can become aware of and manage their own emotions, so they can be better prepared to provide emotional support to the patient.
The topic of illness makes most of us feel anxious and helpless. Because of the fear and anxiety associated with the topic of illness, many people avoid conversations about the all-too-present reality of illness. Unfortunately, avoidance makes both patients and loved ones feel more distant and isolated.
Current research, as well as nearly twenty years of clinical experience has taught me that loved ones who are emotionally available and supportive can positively enhance the lives of people suffering with illness. The benefits to patients are not only psychological; loved ones can also influence physical health and well being.
Think of this book as your guide to improving the quality your life and the life of the person you care about whom is ill. Thinking about the psychological consequences of illness and how it impacts our relationships is a great investment in overall health and quality of life. I hope it empowers loved ones and patients, alike, in navigating the complicated terrain of relationships, modern medicine, physical illness, and all that encompasses a longer life in the 21st century.