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Maintaining family unity, harmony and functionality can be difficult when family members live a busy active lifestyle. It usually takes the cooperation of every family member to complete daily chores and help (to the extent possible) with financial obligations that the family needs to meet.

With that being said, imagine the additional stress that is often placed upon the family when a family member becomes either permanently or temporarily disabled. A disability may appear at birth and be long term. On the other hand a person may find his or her life changed in a split second as a result of an accident or illness.

Life’s difficulties can appear at any age and can affect the family to varying degrees. What is almost always required is a change in roles and responsibilities of family members. This week’s article deals with complications arising from difficulties that a family faces when a disability requires unexpected attention and flexibility.

“The day-to-day strain of providing care and assistance can lead to exhaustion and fatigue, taxing the physical and emotional energy of family members (Singhi et al 1990). There are a whole set of issues that create emotional strain, including worry, guilt, anxiety, anger and uncertainty about the cause of the disability, about the future, about the needs of other family members, about whether one is providing enough assistance, and so on.

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"Grieving over the loss of function of the person with the disability is experienced at the time of onset, and often repeatedly at other stages in the person's life. Family life is changed, often in major ways. Care-taking responsibilities may lead to changed or abandoned career plans. Female family members are more likely to take on care-giving roles and thus give up or change their work roles.

"A disability can consume a disproportionate share of a family's resources of time, energy and money, so that other individual and family needs go unmet. Families often talk about living 'one day at a time.' The family's lifestyle and leisure activities are altered. A family's dreams and plans for the future may be given up. Social roles are disrupted because often there is not enough time, money, or energy to devote to them.”

There are many ways to relieve the family stress related to illness or disability of an individual family member. If you are interested in learning more about ways to combat the stress and strain that an illness or disability can place on one’s family, a complete article can be found at the following site:

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Kaye Frataccia is the program manager for Around the Table. This column solely represents the writer’s opinion.

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