How to Handle a Sick Family Member While Away At School

College is known for being a balancing act. Whether it’s sports, a club, an internship, or anything in between, it can make it hard to manage everything at once, especially your coursework. Unfortunately, dealing with family emergencies while you’re away at school is expected. Your loved ones are likely getting older, and sometimes unexpected changes occur when you are away. So, how do you handle it? 

This article will provide a few tips on handling a family emergency while away at school while also providing some insight into balancing the rest of your collegiate responsibilities. 

Communication with Faculty

This may seem like one of those things that you can try to “get through on your own,” but communication can go a long way during family emergencies. In fact, this is the time to rely on others! 

GradGuard offers tuition insurance in the case of emergencies that may require you to be out of school indefinitely. If you take on the role of caregiver for a family member and now have to be home for an extended period where you can’t seem to make up classes, this will allow for tuition reimbursement to hopefully come back the next semester. Taking the time to talk to the Student Life Office and your Admissions Office can help you through this and set you up for your best options in an emergency. 

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your Student Life Office about your family emergency, a quick email to your professors, lab directors, or any other organization leader for groups you are a part of can make a huge difference. In most cases, professors will not count this time against you, and you may get extra time for a paper or an assignment that may be coming up. This will give you more balance to handle whatever your family emergency may be, whether this means leaving school for a period of time or working on your own mental health through the process. The last thing you need to worry about is wasting money on tuition when you cannot even attend class or letting your grades slip if you can’t offer your full attention this semester. 

Focus On Your Mental Health

No matter what role you may be taking on during a family emergency, you should focus on your health too! Dealing with grief, mourning, or any sort of uncertainty can truly take a toll on how well you perform both in and out of school. 

Oftentimes, colleges will have counseling services set up, but maybe this isn’t cut out for you, or you may have already used the allotted appointments up (often, they give about ten). Luckily, counseling available for sick people is also usually available to their family members. Going to these sessions with everyone involved might be a good idea.

Mental health self-care comes in many forms and is never the same for two different people. If counseling wasn’t working for you, something else like working out or hanging with your friends might. It is important to remember that while you are a caregiver, you still need to carve out time for yourself. Managing caregiving while in college can be tough, but with some adjustments, you can still lead a normal college life that keeps you mentally healthy. 

If you are part of the caregiving group for your relative, there are plenty of caregiver resources available to help you and your family not only be better caregivers but to make sure you’re being taken care of as well. 

Take Time to Strategize

Working with your parents or legal guardians to help you through this tough time can be key to keeping your school-life balance in check. Take a day to look at airline, train, or bus tickets if needed, and see what work you have to get done right away. If you have some friends or people in class that know what you are going through, see if you can have them share notes from any classes you miss so you can still balance going home with your coursework. The smallest things can ease a caregiver’s stress, so don’t be afraid to try anything that you think may help you! 

There are plenty of tips for traveling you should note, like knowing when traffic will be slammed if driving home or when the best time to buy plane tickets might be. Packing accordingly for potential hospital visits, care facilities, and anything in between can be tough. Still, it’s manageable if you take some time to work with those around you who are also going through this. Make sure you do some extra planning if you need to travel during the holidays, as it can be trickier with everyone going home at once. If you can, try to leave a week earlier than the rest of the students to ensure lower prices and a smoother trip home.

This may also be a good time to loop in any sort of academic services your campus may have. The academic services advisors can help you find study groups, review sessions, or even assign a tutor to help you stay focused through a turbulent time. In fact, it’s what they’re there for. Don’t be afraid to reach out to continue your school success. 

Going through a family emergency while away from home can be one of the most challenging times in your life; entering your early twenties and setting yourself up for a career, all while dealing with an emotionally and mentally draining period, can be hard. But, with these few tips, you may just be able to get through with your head held high.