As a dentist you have spent years in training and preparation to be successful in private practice. You have not been alone. Your spouse, children, and family have been there every step of the way.  They have shared in the sacrifices and have been there to enjoy the rewards of your success. They are just as much a part of  your dental career as your staff, patients, and office.

When you are injured or ill, your family will share your anxiety, grief, and fear. It is often too easy for a dental practitioner to focus on themselves and their survival. The loss of self-identity and self-esteem are very frequently overwhelming when facing cancer, addiction, or severe injury. It is easy to overlook the others who will be directly affected by these catastrophic events.  Self preservation/survival is a primate emotion. Probably the most basic of emotions. Understanding that you are not alone in your recovery and survival is critical to you long-term ability to adapt.

Your family, especially your children will be very reluctant to ask for help.  In the long run it will ultimately be up to you to decide if you will fight your disability as a team. Your family and spouse will need as much encouragement, support, and empathy as you. Failure to acknowledge this need could have disastrous consequences.  The stress on marriages and relationships is well documented and you will need to be proactive and helpful.  It will not be easy helping others when you need help, but understand the risks that are there and the result of inaction.

The indirect effects of your illness will not be readily apparent. Loss of interest in school, failing grades, and chronic anxiety are frequently encountered when a parent is severely injured or ill.  Your illness or injury will affect almost every aspect of your life and the lives of those who you love.

Your ability to influence the magnitude of these effects is limited at first. When you are in the hospital and early in your recovery, you will not have the time or energy to devote to these issues.  This will change. As you begin your recovery and start your rehabilitation efforts, you will have time to start your efforts to ensure the survival of your family.

Begin with communication. Speak honestly, frequently, and openly with your family. The more information that they have on your condition, plans, and well-being; the less fear that will be present. Fear comes from the unknown. The less guessing and speculation that your family has, the less likely they will suffer in silence.  This is a powerful and very simple tool.  Just talk about your feelings, desires, and needs.  This will lift a tremendous burden from your family and let them make their own plans and decisions without guessing.

Move on to involving your spouse and family in the decision-making process. You will be making critical decisions on your career, practice, and life. Getting them involved lets them have a degree of control. When you are severely injured or ill, the loss of control is ultimately one of the most concerning aspects in survival.  Just having the feeling that you can still influence future events can be very comforting. We all want to help and preventing the frustration the inevitably occurs in these situations can mean the difference in survival.

The next step is reassurance of your family regarding your future. Younger practitioners in debt with young children may be facing years of hardship and stress. Look at your situation honestly and keep your family involved in your financial decisions. Let them know that you are ready to transition and move on with your life. If you can return to work, involve your family in the process. If you need to explore other fields let your family provide input and encouragement. By doing so, you are allowing them to control their future as well as yours. Look to our posting on the ten steps to survive disability for guidance.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY

The first step in correcting a problem is identifying the problem. This is a very distasteful subject, but so critical. Look to your friends and medical providers for some initial guidance. You are not the first or the last person to be forced to deal with these issues. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, look to the experience of others. Don’t make the same mistakes. Be smart and proactive. Come out in the end with and intact healthy family. We are ready to help in your survival and recovery.

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