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Dealing with illness in SW France


Dealing with Illness in SW France is a worry but you are not on your own.  Whether it‘s a sprained wrist, a broken leg, a long term ailment or worse, coping with illness is never easy, especially when in a foreign language.

The great news is that there is a lot of help out there, from companies who specialise in translation and can guide you through the maze of medical and administrative processes, through to online support organisations, rehabilitation centres and a vast range of medical aids to make recovery more comfortable.

Obtaining Help

There are times when being ill or having friends and family who are ill can become too much to bear. Trained by professional psychologists, the team at provides supportive, empathetic and non-judgemental listening in relation to health worries, bereavement, substance abuse, depression and, amongst other concerns, loneliness.   As the name suggests, the Bereavement Support Network (BSN) at is focussed on managing bereavement or terminal illness. Committed, trained volunteers who have all experienced bereavement are there to support those facing death, or carers who are suffering anticipatory grief. Cancer Support France (CSF) at, gives emotional, linguistic and practical support to English speakers in France who have been touched by cancer.

Dealing with illness in SW France - Christine Haworth-Staines

Christine Haworth-Staines

Counselling and Therapy

Taking control is paramount to healthy psychological wellbeing says Christine Haworth-Staines, a Chartered Psychologist and Registered Psychologue. What exactly does this mean when we are faced with a chronic illness or we receive news that life may be shorter than we had anticipated?

We rely on professionals, family, friends and wider society to help when we are unwell. This may create cognitive dissonance, a psychological term for the discomfort we feel when our beliefs are challenged. We may understand that ‘taking control’ is important, but we also understand that we are dependent on others.

What is incredibly important during these difficult times is to remember that we are all dependent on each other to various degrees. However, our decision making is often within our control. Obviously, this may be challenged with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or stroke but even in these situations we can plan and let people know our wishes before a crisis occurs.

In practical terms, for instance, we can take care of our medical records.   In my opinion this is easy in France as hospitals, laboratories, specialists, etc., share information with patients. Preparing questions before a meeting with a professional, and inviting someone along to make notes puts you in control.

Taking control of decision making by educating ourselves about our illness and seeking appropriate help is less stressful, ultimately, than ‘burying our heads in the sand’. For some people, this is difficult. There may be fear, even phobias, associated with certain aspects of health care: needles, chemotherapy, hospital environments, anaesthetic. There are a range of psychological therapies to help the patient to cope.

For the more existential questions that arise when we are faced with life-threatening, or life-changing illness, talking therapy is helpful, which may include creating our own narrative to make sense of it all.

Emma Clark, dealing with illness in SW France

Emma Clark

Medical Aids and Prosthetics

We asked Emma Clark from Your Comfort Healthcare how foam shapes can help to provide relief from the discomforts associated with the back, the seat and sleep itself.    She explains, “Not being able to sleep or sit in comfort is not only irritating but it can be debilitating.  A pressure cushion can relieve bedsores experienced during long term bed or seat rest and are also available with a special coccyx cut, as are orthopaedic wedges which can help relieve back pain and improve posture in an office chair or car. A bed complete with a ripple foam memory topper can alleviate pressure on shoulders and hips, and a large foam Bed Wedge can be used to help with acid reflux.  For others, a Sleep Apnea Pillow reduces the pressure from the face mask, whilst an orthopaedic Memory Foam Pillow can significantly help to reduce neck and back pain.”

Other aids

Pharmacies stock equipment including commodes and les cannes anglaise (walking sticks) which can be hired.   Specialist chemists offer breast forms, shoe lifts and electric recliners. Certain hairdressers provide private rooms for hair loss or to have a wig styled and fitted, and there is a plethora of turbans and hats online, some with fake fringes for a different kind of look.

For details of support organisations, therapists, counsellors and other well-being practitioners visit our business directory at

First published in the May/June 2019 issue of The Local Buzz

Images: Shutterstock, Emma Clark, Christine Haworth-Staines