According to the National Council on Aging, nearly 92 percent of seniors have at least one chronic condition and up to 77 percent have two. Seventy-five percent of our nation’s healthcare budget is spent on chronic diseases. Diabetes affects 22 percent of the older population, while 90 percent are at risk for high blood pressure. Chronic disease is far from rare. Coping with chronic illness is only possible with dedicated care and support.
We wish for long life for our family and loved ones. That wish assumes a high quality life. But the reality is, many older adults struggle each day with chronic illness. It’s important to focus on not only ensuring long life but also supporting our loved ones through chronic illness, so they can enjoy those hours, days, weeks, months, and years in the later part of their life.
Chronic conditions are especially difficult to handle since the psychological stress of the longevity of the disease is layered on top of dealing with the disease itself. Stressors are compounded, negatively impacting mental states and sometimes causing mood disorders, such as depression.
Coping with chronic illness takes an intentional plan and the support of family, friends, and caregivers.
Coping with Chronic Illness
- Research Your Illness
- Understanding your condition is helpful in your treatment plan. It will help you better identify symptoms and thus how to handle them. Knowing your body is worth the diligence needed to track symptoms.
- Read books on your illness, seek the advice of multiple doctors and nurses, visit credible online resources, talk to those in your situation, etc…
- The goal is not to falsely hope for a cure that doesn’t exist but to live in a way that does not increase negative effects of the illness.
- Living with a chronic illness means knowing what to avoid and what actively do to minimize the severity of the condition.
- Keep Doing
- The worst thing an individual affected by a chronic illness could do is nothing. Even if no treatment plan seems to be working, an attitude of action rather than inaction will improve your state of being.
- Work and daily life will not look typical but using the abilities you have will go a long way for physical and mental health.
- Build Relationships
- It’s important for family members to come around a senior with chronic illness and maintain their familial relationships. Being near family and having daily visits and conversations built into life will lead to a more spirited life and fight off social isolation and all of its negative repercussions.
- It’s also helpful for family members to encourage relationships within the community. Local support groups as well as interest groups will help connect a senior who doesn’t already have a natural way to connect in their community.