Impact of Illness on a family

It always feels like the whole family is grieving when a member of the family contracts a chronic disease, especially one that is incurable. No one ever plans to be chronically ill. Therefore, it usually feels like a bomb is dropped on a family when one of them is diagnosed with a sickness that will kill him/her.

This is where intense caregiver challenges rear its ugly head. Remember, a caregiver is a person that takes care of an old or ill person – in this case, a chronically ill person. A caregiver might not necessarily be related to the patient, but the impact of illness is doubled if the caregiver is related to the patient. The effect of disease on a family, if not well handled, may cause lasting adverse effects. These effects may be emotional, psychological, and even economical.

Although these effects are usually on the negative side, a lot of families have gone through some improvements due to the chronic illness of one of their own. Shocking, right? The chronic disease of a family member may be the call-to-Jesus moment that a family needs to draw closer to each other. A lot of people have testified that the chronic illness of someone related to them drew them closer to their family, and in some cases, significantly reduced the chance of divorce.

However, the negative impact of chronic disease in a family is, unfortunately, higher than the positive effects. Read further into this article and find out the impact of illness on a family.

Impact of chronic illness on a family. 


  • Divorce: the impact that chronic sickness may have on a couple, as I said earlier, may be on the negative or the positive side. If a partner is chronically ill, the healthy partner may decide to stay with him or her – which is laudable, by the way. While another partner may decide that he or she doesn’t want to witness the person they love wither and die, and then seek a divorce. It’s unpredictable and different for all couples. But of course, it largely depends on the approach every family takes whenever one of them is chronically ill.
  • Disrupted family goals and plans: no one plans summer trips or throws expensive parties when a family member is chronically ill. All the plans to see the world together, all the promised mountain hikes and camping, all the goals to buy a house in Hollywood, etc. will be put on temporary hold if a family member becomes chronically ill.
  • Emotional and psychological instability: this goes for both the patient and his/her family members. If the patient is a parent, the children will be unstable, and their performance in school and other fields of life will be largely reduced. Children may also experience withdrawal symptoms if a parent is chronically ill. If the patient is a child, his/her parents might either experience over protection or emotional withdrawal. They may also lead a miserable work life due to the stress of caring for their chronically ill child.
  • Disregard of other family members: this is mostly applicable to children. If a child is a chronically ill person, parents, out of genuine concern for their sick child, tend to forsake or forget the other child(ren) that they bore. Parents also tend to neglect their children if one of the spouses or parents of one of the spouses becomes critically ill.


Most of the negative impacts of chronic illness that were mentioned above can be prevented if the family members establish an active communication path. Most people cannot read minds; therefore, good and constant communication is needed to get things off one’s chest. Moreover, communicating with each other if a family member becomes chronically ill strengthens the family bond and love.