Wendy Hall is an extraordinary expat. She’s coped with both her daughter’s serious illness and her own chronic health battle while living in Hong Kong. This tough journey has inspired her to write a series of books that introduce children to medicine. We asked Wendy to share some practical advice for families facing a health crisis.
How can we help our friends who are experiencing illness?
Rather than just asking how things are or offering generic help, it’s useful to connect and let your friend know you acknowledge this is a very difficult time and want to help. On a practical level, you can help with domestic tasks like making meals. Going to sit with the patient can bring a fresh perspective and ease the load on the family.
What’s your advice to parents managing sick children?
I have three pieces of advice. First, be honest with everyone. It’s essential to be honest and open with all the family, including the sick child. This extends to school – having teachers and other children in the class aware of what’s going on will be a huge help.
Second, work together as a family. Aligning as a family team and working together will make life immeasurably easier. Keep your family running as normal. This requires a lot of effort but practical approaches like a roster of who spends time with the patient and who is at home will reduce stress.
Finally, get prepared. Research and read about the treatments you’ll have. Prepared kids are empowered kids. This motivated me to write my books. Reading these books allows kids to understand what will happen and have strategies to get over those challenges. They’re also of benefit to healthy kids.
What about the caregiver?
Don’t forget to support the caregiver; it’s a huge role. Caregivers can get fatigued, or even have a breakdown. Be prepared to listen; sometimes, simply an ear to hear what you’re going through is a huge support.
For all the caregivers reading this, it’s OK if you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I know it can be difficult, but remember that friends don’t always know what you need.
Learn more about Wendy’s story and her range of storybooks for children at mediwonderland.com.
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This article first appeared in the February/March 2019 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.