Living with a Hepatitis C Patient

Living with a Hepatitis C patient while they are being treated can be very trying. It tends to affect many aspects of family life, and can exert a considerable strain on relationships. There is always a background pressure exerted by the fact that the condition can be fatal and does not always respond to treatment. This is coupled with the fact that the treatment itself is at best unpleasant, and can be difficult to tolerate. In addition the treatment side effects can make the patient irritable, depressed and moody.

Partners tend to bear the brunt of all this. Don't be surprised if the dinner that you have spent half the day cooking is left untouched, or the planned evening out is cancelled at the last minute. It is par for the course, and just has to be tolerated. Likewise if the kids/dog/TV get shouted at for no rational reason its just the medication's side effect. The patient, of course, will not realise this, and if you tell them they will tell you that you are being irrational and stupid!

There is no medication for this, but a large dose of tolerance helps a lot! Don't be afraid to withdraw to a safe distance if the situation requires. It is probably better than provoking a row which you stand no chance of winning. You do need to keep a reasonably close eye on the mental state of the patient. If there are signs of depression or any suicidal thoughts then contact the doctor supervising treatment immediately. It is useful if you can go along with the patient for routine appointments, and give your assessment of his or her mental state, and how well they are tolerating treatment. You are in a good position to judge this, and the doctor and patient are not.

On a practical note, one side effect is that patients commonly have night sweats, and a good supply of clean bed sheets, pillows and pillow cases can be useful. The type of electric blanket that allows different settings for each side of the bed is an absolute must unless you want to be roasted! Providing moral support during injections is helpful, but keep a safe distance unless asked otherwise as used needles are dangerous.

Patients need to eat and drink sensibly whilst on treatment, and this is not always easy to achieve when appetite varies. The ribavirin tablets that form part of the treatment have to be taken twice a day with food, and ideally this food should have a higher-than-average fat content. If you can encourage this, and indeed snacking between meals this will help. Many patients loose weight during treatment, and anything that you can do to minimise this will help.

For some unknown reason many patients become sensitive to strong smells and flavours during treatment, and keeping the use of strong-smelling household chemicals to a minimum is advisable. Air and carpet fresheners are the usual targets, as are nail varnish and paint.

If you have any aspirin or ibuprofen tablets available hide them up! They are not recommended for a patient on treatment. Paracetamol (Tylenol) is safe in moderation, but make sure that no more than is likely to be required in any one day is easily available just in case.

Patients tend to have good days and bad days. The best advice is to make the most of the good days and tolerate the bad ones. You have probably gained the impression that treatment is an ordeal, and in some cases it can be, but in the vast majority it is not that bad! Try to keep a positive attitude, and look forward to the end of treatment, and a return to normality. Don't forget that the support websites and telephone lines are for the benefit of families as well as patients, so don't be afraid to ask!

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