Chronic health conditions can take many forms. According to The King’s Fund, data from England indicates that roughly 15 million people in the population live with a chronic condition — and some of these people deal with two or more chronic illnesses. Whether your loved one is dealing with a physical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or a psychiatric one such as bipolar disorder, if you wish to help them, it’s important to learn as much as you can about their daily life, their most common struggles, and what they’ve been instructed to do by their physicians. Below are more tips about how to help your loved one cope with a chronic condition.
If you get a sinus infection, you may visit your doctor, obtain antibiotics if necessary, and wait for your symptoms to resolve. People with illnesses or disabilities that are not acute — whether they are physical, mental, or emotional — do not have this luxury. They are dealing with long-term symptoms that fluctuate from day to day. Do your best to learn about the specific condition that your loved one has and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Having a chronic condition can zap your energy. You may be able to help your loved one by cooking healthy meals or arranging to have groceries delivered on a set schedule. Encouraging your loved one to get appropriate exercise, attend physical therapy appointments, contact their physician when unusual symptoms pop up, or seek out counseling for the mental health issues that often accompany chronic conditions may be helpful as well.
With chronic conditions, symptoms may seem to magically disappear one day and then flare up the next. Often, these seemingly unpredictable flares are tied to stress, poor diet, or lack of sleep. See if you can assist your loved ones by creating a method for monitoring their symptoms. Try one of the many symptom-tracking apps available for phones, tablets, or computers.
People with physical disabilities may need assistive devices such as wheelchairs, non-slip flooring, or handrails next to the toilet so they do not fall when standing. Work with your loved one to assess the situation and consider calling in a contractor to make modifications to their living space if necessary.
Stress can make any mental or physical condition worse. Chronic stress can adversely affect anyone who doesn’t have a chronic medical condition, but for those who do, the constant release of stress hormones can exacerbate their symptoms. Your loved one may struggle with insomnia, anxiety, increased pain, or worsening depression. Seek out counseling if necessary, and know that little changes such as reducing clutter around the home, adding pretty houseplants, and switching out heavy drapes for sheer curtains to let more light in can make a big difference.
Your loved one’s condition may last for years before improving, or it may be permanent and lifelong. On the other hand, it may get better if they get proper treatment and are able to care for themselves. Try not to focus too much on erasing all symptoms as this goal may be impossible. If you wish to help, simply assist them in working towards being as mentally and physically healthy as they can be!
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