Recently I was the Keynote speaker at a National MS Society Luncheon for caregivers; those persons who were involved with a family member with Multiple Sclerosis. In preperation for the luncheon I searched for information to add to my material. I found plenty of information for the family on the problems for the person with MS but a lack of information about the impact of the disease on the family; their needs, their challenges, what they need to do to take care of themselves. I have found the dynamics to be similar for those family members impacted by a loved one with Parkinson's Disease, stroke, an elderly parent with medical needs and other challenges necessitating the family to be caretakers.

Let's be clear- the life of the person with MS or other challenge is profoundly changed by their diagnosis and its impact. They did not wish to have the disease or its limitations and are profoundly affected by it. We must also be sure to note, though, that the family also has been impacted. If we do not recognize and address some of these effects family members may suffer and relationships may be profoundly effected.

The person with MS or other illness suffers multiple losses; loss of their self image, of things they used to do, of their independence and some of their abilities. Feelings of anger, depression and anxiety are some of the normal responses to the losses. The same feelings also occur with members of their family as well. Family members sometimes feel guilty about their feelings- wishing they didn't feel as they feel, and feeling they shouldn't feel that way. Feelings are's what we do in response to them that is the issue. For example, a family member having to cancel plans they looked forward to in response to their loved one's illness would normally feel frustration, sadness and possibly anger. The feelings are appropriate. Instead of being angry at the person who's sick, we can be angry at the situation. We can let the feelings out in therapy or with others that can provide us support. We make sure though not to either "stuff" our feelings or explode on others.

Family members respond differently; some talk with many others in order to feel better and others don't talk as much but just try to "keep going". It's important to recognize we have different styles and to respect that we're not the same in how we deal with problems. It is essential to know, though, when help is needed.

Children have special needs. They often do not have the understanding of what is occurring, nor the language skills to communicate their thoughts and feelings. In addition children react differently at different ages; what is termed "age-appropriate". Children in need of services may show signs of regression; behaviors from an earlier age that return (such as thumb-sucking or bed wetting), acting out, withdrawl, depression or anxiety.

If we find that our children, ourselves, other family members or the person with MS or illness, has continued to be depressed, anxious or stuck one should seek help.

Self-help or support groups can be found through the MS society as can information on MS. The same is true for many other conditions.

Therapy can be extremely effective. If things have been problematic, the time for action is now. If we're having trouble getting somewhere, it can be a good idea to talk to someone who knows the area and can either provide directions or help us find our goal.

Author's Bio: 

Randolph Bleiwas, Director of Harbor Crest, has a Masters in Psychology and Social Work as well as a number of certifications. These include a NYS License in Clinical Social Work, a NYS Credential in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling and a Certification in Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy. He is a member of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the National Center for Crisis Management and the American Psychotherapy and Medical Hypnosis Association.

He has worked in mental health and substance abuse for over 20 years providing individual, couples, family and group therapy to children, adolescents and adultsas well as hypnosis and hypnotherapy.

At Harbor Crest we don't use a "one size fits all" method. Treatment is based on the needs of the person we meet with, not our needs. Though we focus primarily on here and now there are times we must go back to move forward. We give feedback and do not merely reflect back to a client what he or she says. We work together to help our clients reach their goals. As human beings we sometimes will get lost in unfamiliar territory. We can blindly search an hope to stumble on one of the right paths, or we can ask someone who knows the way. We are here to help.

His clients include people affected by depression, anxiety, eating disorders, chronic or terminal illness, victims of traumatic events, victims of physical or sexual abuse, children and adolescents with behavioral problems, individuals with alcohol or drug problems, or people struggling with problems in relationships.
His approach is eclectic, utilizing multiple techniques including cognitive behavioral, gestalt, psychodynamc, RET, (plus play therapy and sandplay for children) and others to help clients reach their goals. He believes in providing direct feedback and working as a team to help individuals, couples and families break problematic patterns. He is also an expert in hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
Hypnosis, our newest offering at Harbor Crest is a tool that has been used for many years
with significant success. Performed by Mr. Bleiwas, Certified in Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy,
it is used to resolve problems and difficulties either alone or as an adjunct to therapy. Unlike stage Hypnosis the person does not lose awareness, and does not lose their will. Post-hypnotic suggestions are heard both consciously and unconsciously at the same time! It is helpful with studying, test-anxiety,
anxiety disorders/OCD, trauma, smoking, weight loss and many other areas.