It’s no secret that Americans are coping with record-breaking rates of diagnosis for chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, arthritis, heart conditions, and other long-term illnesses.
The demands of caring for a loved one suffering with a chronic condition can be stressful and draining for the family caregiver. As the family caregiver, coping and caring for one’s own chronic condition can add to complexities of providing care for a loved one.
Ten Steps to Help You Cope
The following 10 steps from the Harvard Health Publications
and the Home Instead Senior Care® network can help you effectively cope
with these complex illnesses, whether you’re dealing with your own
chronic condition or that of a family member for which you provide care.
- Get information. Direct your questions to your doctor or nurse, and
also ask them about trusted sources of medical information on the Web.
- Don’t leave everything to the doctor. Listen to your body and track
changes so you can spot potentially harmful changes before they may
become real trouble.
- Build a team. Your primary care physician may not have all of the
answers. Seek out specialists and other resources like nurses and
- Coordinate your care. Specialists don’t always talk to each other, so coordinate care through a primary care physician.
- Invest in yourself. Those who make healthy lifestyle changes like
stopping smoking, losing weight, exercising more and adopting healthier
eating habits are more likely to successfully manage a chronic
- Make it a family affair. Make lifestyle changes a family affair instead of going it alone. It’s good for everyone!
- Manage medications. Medication is usually an important part of a
chronic condition treatment plan, but it can be difficult to keep track
of multiple prescriptions and how and when to take each of them.
Download this medication tracker worksheet to help stay organized and bring it when you visit the doctor or pharmacy.
- Beware of depression. Depression can discourage you from taking important medications,
seeing your doctor when you need to, or pursuing healthy habits.
- Reach out. Look for a support group and talk with people who are dealing with the same condition.
- Plan for end-of-life decisions. A chronic condition may have the
potential to cause your health to fail suddenly and unexpectedly. Having
a good plan of care in place “just in case” may avert a potential
crisis. Here are tips for putting together a plan of care, along with an explanation of the documents you may need.
Stay Aware of Your Situation
Stress is a hidden culprit that can worsen chronic disease symptoms, so it’s a good idea to regularly try to gauge your stress level and understand what you can do to help protect your own health.
Get Help When You Need It
Don’t be afraid to ask other family members, friends or neighbors for help when you’re having a rough stretch. There are also professional caregiving services and respite care services available that can step in to give you a break.