When someone close is diagnosed with MND or Kennedy’s disease, support for family members may be needed. Everyone may need time to adjust, while facing difficult conversations, and sharing challenging emotions with family and friends. However, understanding each other’s needs can help everyone feel more supported, and work better as a team.
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“It’s about finding solutions to problems to enable life to continue as positively and optimistically as possible.”Family member, affected by MND
What do we need to think about?
Both MND and Kennedy’s disease bring change and it can feel as though the disease is always one step ahead. This can leave the person who has been diagnosed, and those close to them, experiencing a loss of control within their lives.
It may feel bewildering, even when supported, as:
- there are new faces, appointments and discussions to manage, with many different professionals involved
- you may not feel ready for information immediately and need time to adjust to the diagnosis
- future plans and dreams may have to change.
Being well informed about possible symptoms, the impact on daily life, choices for treatment and access to support can be helpful. Understanding the likely challenges ahead enables better planning.
Our Types of care booklet gives an overview of the range of care available with MND or Kennedy's disease.
If everyone involved, including family and close friends, are informed, it can help enormously.
“Everyone needs to face what’s happening together to feel prepared and supported.”Family member, affected by MND
Knowing what to expect won’t make the diagnosis feel any better, but it can make daily living a little easier to manage.
If you know someone who has been recently diagnosed, see information sheet 1C - Where can I find the information I need? about our resources and services at the MND Association, and key external organisations for guidance.
We also provide a comprehensive guide to help carers look after their own wellbeing, Caring and MND: support for you.
For more resources, see our Information for people with or affected by MND, which lists our publications for families, carers and children. This includes information for people with or affected by Kennedy’s disease, such as information sheet 2B – Kennedy’s disease.
See Our services for more information about how we can help, or the drop down option on this page What support does the MND Association provide?
This page includes guidance about support for younger family members, but you can find out more on our hub for Children and young people.
How can we have more open conversations about what's happening?
“Although we were a close family, we didn’t talk much about what was happening or what might happen in the future. I wish we had talked more because a lot of my worries would have been dealt with.”Young person, close to someone with MND
If you find it challenging, ask a health and social care professional you trust to guide difficult family conversations. This can be done at an appointment and may help everyone to focus and ask questions.
If the person with MND or Kennedy’s disease has problems with speech and communication, complex or lengthy discussions can become more difficult. In a smaller number of MND cases, the way the person thinks and behaves may also be affected.
Due to these possible changes, ask professionals for guidance as early as you can, or feel ready to do so. For example, it can help to ask about decision making on treatments and future care.
Resources that may help
Our Information resources can help open discussions between family members and professionals. Having a structure to follow can make it easier to tackle some of the bigger questions. Our publications often use questions as headings to prompt discussion, with suggestions to consider in the text that follows.
If you are worried about how to discuss what’s happening with younger members of the family, you may find it useful to read our guide Telling people about MND, which includes guidance on how communicate about MND with family, children, friends, colleagues and health or social care professionals. See also our hub for Children and young people, which includes guidance for parents and guardians.
See the drop down section below What support is available for the family, including children? for more details on how to support younger people.
How can we manage the emotional impact?
“I would like more emotional support, perhaps involving all the family. I feel there is a tendency to try and ignore, or not deal with, the emotional impact of caring for a loved one with MND.”Family member, affected by MND
Your experience of being close to someone with MND or Kennedy’s disease will be personal to you. No one will have exactly the same challenges or responses, but you are not alone in your feelings. Many will be facing similar situations and a wide range of emotions.
But where can you get support when it’s needed?
We provide information to help. See Section 7: Making sense of your feelings in our guide Caring and MND: support for you. This guidance can help you understand what to expect, identify emotions and think about ways to manage these if you begin to feel overwhelmed. We also provide a guide for people with or affected by MND, called Emotional and psychological support, which includes information about the different therapies on offer.
Who can help me?
Members of the health and social care team supporting the person who has been diagnosed, can also help advise you. They may refer you, if wished, for specialist help if you experience persistent emotional distress and would like some help.
Our MND Connect helpline is here to listen if you need to talk with someone. Our helpline can guide you towards support that feels right for you, including support about Kennedy’s disease.
You may find it helpful to be put in touch with one of our Association visitors, where available. These trained volunteers can provide guidance and support at your home, or by telephone or email. We also have local Branches and groups, where you can meet other people affected by MND, who understand the changes you are dealing with. There are other Useful organisations that offer support to carers and family members who support people with serious conditions.
What does the 'whole family approach' mean?
When the person with MND has a needs assessment (or family carers have a carer's assessment), the whole family is often taken into account. The assessment can look at the impact of a condition or situation on the household and what support for family members could help. When being assessed, ask if there is additional family support for younger members or dependents.
“I feel stretched all the time and guilty that I cannot be both a carer and the best mother I can be.”Carer, supporting a person with MND
The whole family approach can help ensure suitable services are arranged. This may reduce the pressure of care and enable the family to better face the challenges ahead as a team.
How do we get our needs assessed?
At some point, external support may be necessary, as care needs can increase rapidly with MND and over time with Kennedy’s disease.
“The difficulty for the family can sometimes be to know who to go to for what…often it is the first time the family has to cope with a serious illness and look after someone in the home.”Family member, affected by MND
Adult social services can provide a needs assessment for the person who has been diagnosed, or a carer’s assessment if you are providing support. If children or young people are involved with support or care in any way, they should also be offered a young carers needs assessment.
What are these assessments for?
These assessments work out your needs, agree which support services could assist and help you plan for emergencies. To arrange an assessment, contact your local authority in England or Wales, or your local health and social care trust in Northern Ireland.
During the assessment (or when making a claim for relevant benefits), always provide lots of detail about how long things take, such as helping the person with the condition to complete tasks. This is more likely to result in appropriate support.
The assessment will lead to a support plan, which will be agreed with you. You may have to pay towards any services arranged, but a financial assessment is used to work out how much you pay and how much your local authority may pay.
Being aware of your rights can help you get an assessment, to access the support and information you may need. We provide information sheet 10B - What is social care? to help explain.
We provide information resources to help, or look on www.gov.uk for England and Wales, or www.nidirect.gov.uk for Northern Ireland. See also our web page on Benefits, financial support and cost of living.
See Getting the right treatment or care with MND to help people with MND and their carers get better outcomes.
For more information, see:
- What you should expect from your care
- 10A – Benefits and entitlements
- 10B - What is social care?
- 10C - Disabled Facilities Grants and home accessibility
- 10D – NHS continuing healthcare
- 10E – Work and MND
- 10F - Personal health budgets
- 10G – Support for families with children
- Caring and MND: support for you
- Caring and MND: quick guide - this guide is also available in audio format
What support is available for the family, including children?
Adult social care services look to the needs of the whole family, especially when children and young people are involved.
Following assessment of needs (see drop down option above), a range of support and information may be provided. This could be for the person who has been diagnosed, their carer, and any children or young people in the household. Help may include:
- care worker support for household tasks or personal care
- help with carer breaks or respite care
- support for children and young people
- guidance on urgent or emergency care
- assistance with transport issues
- how to access benefits and entitlements.
It is worth finding out what’s available. You may have to pay towards any agreed or arranged services, but a financial assessment will work out how much you need to contribute.
See our Information resources page, which features a drop down option listing our publications for families, carers and children.
Information sheets 10A to 10G provide guidance on benefits and other areas of financial support, including Information sheet 10G: Support for families with children.
Younger family members are supported through our hub for Children and young people, which includes guidance for parents and guardians.
“The fact that your helpline can be contacted by young people as well as adults is the best part. You’re here for us too.”Young person, close to someone with MND
We also offer a limited amount of family counselling to support children and young people affected by MND, or Kennedy’s disease. If you would like to find out more, contact [email protected]
Health and social care professionals who support a person with MND or Kennedy’s disease often provide guidance and support for carers and close family too. For example, specialist palliative care services focus on quality of life for people with a life-shortening illness and this includes support for immediate family.
Palliative care services
“Some professional support, like a nurse to tell you what was going on, would help.”Young person, close to someone with MND
With MND, building a relationship with either a specialist palliative team or a hospice team is valuable, as they can offer practical, emotional and spiritual support, as well as symptom control, throughout the course of the disease. If you have MND, ask your GP about referral to palliative services as soon as you can following diagnosis. There may be a waiting list, but the earlier you and your family can be introduced, the more benefit you will achieve.
See our Useful organisations and internet sites page for examples of relevant services and providers.
What support does the MND Association provide?
We provide a wide range of services for people with and affected by MND and Kennedy’s disease, including our MND Connect helpline, regional support, Association visitors, support grants and equipment loan, Communication Aids Service and membership.
Contact our MND Connect helpline for guidance.
“The MND Association is there at the end of a phone or email…and with them I’m a member of a community with similar problems; we can provide each other with help and offer solutions.”Family member, supporting a person with MND
Our Support grants include grants for carers, children and young people close to someone with MND or Kennedy’s disease, as well as for the person who has been diagnosed.
Our Online Forum provides a safe place to share experience for people with or affected by MND who are aged 18 or over.
Younger family members can find information and support on our hub for Children and young people, which includes help for parents and guardians.
In partnership with Barnardo's, we also offer a limited amount of family counselling to support children and young people affected by MND, or Kennedy’s disease. Find out more by contacting [email protected]
See our Useful organisations and internet sites page for examples of other services and providers.
Contacting our MND Connect helpline
MND Connect can provide support, information, and guidance on our services and wider support. They can also listen if you just need to talk. The helpline also assists health and social care professionals who provide support to families affected by MND. See our MND Connect helpline page for more detail.
Telephone: 0800 802 6262
Email: [email protected]
"The fact that your helpline can be contacted by young people as well as adults is the best part. You're here for us too."Young carer
Page last updated: 24 January 2023
Next review: January 2025