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Caring for Someone Living with Migraine

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: November 2010

Migraines often don’t just hurt one person. This painful disorder afflicts the person suffering from the migraine attacks as well as those around them. Family members and friends often must serve as caregiver and adjust their schedules to accommodate the sudden disability that comes with the unpredictable attacks.

More than a third of migraine sufferers consider their attacks moderately or severely disabling. The intensity of the migraine symptoms negatively impacts the quality of life by:

  • Forcing the person with migraines to limit certain activities, such as those outdoors in the sunlight
  • Making it difficult to work reliably, when attacks begin suddenly and many times without warning
  • Causing the sufferer to avoid food at social functions out of fear of potential food triggers
  • Leading to feelings of emotional distress, fear, shame, anger and frustration as a result of how others react to their migraines
  • Making migraine sufferers feel less energy between migraine attacks
  • Causing sleep disturbances

What caregivers, friends and coworkers should know about migraines

  • Migraines are not simply headaches. Migraine symptoms can make bright lights or loud noises unbearable, cause uncontrollable nausea and vomiting or even make parts of the body feel weak
  • Migraines are a true physical condition that requires medical treatment
  • Migraines require avoidance of potential triggers such as certain smells, particular foods and abrupt weather changes
  • Understanding the many ways migraines can curtail activities and hurt emotionally, will help those who live with, work with or know someone with migraines
  • Keeping a migraine journal, although sometimes time consuming, is essential to determining what might set off the cascade of events that leads to migraines
  • It is helpful for another person to accompany the migraine sufferer to all doctor’s appointments to assist with relaying information to the physician and taking notes on the doctor’s recommendations
  • There are numerous resources available to help migraine sufferers and those who care about them to learn about dealing with this disorder
  • Sometimes what seems like a migraine can in fact be a sign of something more serious. Advise the migraine suffer to seek immediate medical attention if the head pain: occurs after a head injury, is sudden, occurs or changes after age 50, is accompanied by fever, rash, stiff neck, numbness, confusion, seizure , vision problems, trouble speaking or gets worse after exertion, coughing or sudden movement
  • Encourage the migraine sufferer to inquire about medical treatment. Even if they have already spoken with a physician, they may need to seek help from a specialist or try a different form of treatment

Caring for the caregiver

Those who are caregivers or who spend time with migraine sufferers must remember to take care of themselves. Being a caregiver or providing support for someone with a serious disorder can cause emotional and financial distress. Make certain that you:

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  • Ask others for help or accept offers of assistance
  • Set limits for what you can do
  • Get enough sleep
  • Learn about what resources are available
  • Take care of your own physical and mental health, don’t neglect your own doctor’s appointments, health and nutrition
  • Do things to reduce stress such as exercise, take time off and make time for your hobbies and interests