Chronic Illness Care: Improving Quality of Life
When you have a cold or flu, it can be difficult to perform everyday tasks or take part in favorite activities, but there is an end in sight. You know that when the illness is over, you will be able to do everything you did before. That doesn't happen when you suffer from a chronic illness.
Unless you suffer from a chronic illness, you don't know what type of impact it has on your day-to-day life. Taking the time to learn more about chronic illness can help you develop a better understanding of what your loved one (or yourself if you are recently diagnosed with a chronic illness) experiences and how you may be able to help.
What is a Chronic Illness?
The term chronic illness is extremely broad. It is often applied to any disease or condition that has long-lasting effects that can impact quality of life.
Chronic illnesses often require on-going medical treatment. However, that isn't always the case. Some chronic illnesses may not require on-going medical attention, but instead it makes it difficult to complete activities of daily living.
To be considered a chronic illness, a condition or disease must have the following characteristics:
- Expected to last a prolonged period of time - length of time varies depending upon the condition or illness, but typically if it lasts longer than 3 months it is classified as chronic
- Requires on-going medical attention - either administration of medication or regular doctor visits and/or makes it difficult to complete activities of daily living such as bathing, eating, walking, dressing and toileting
Examples of Chronic Illnesses
The Center for Disease Control estimates that six out of ten adults suffer from at least one chronic illness. Additionally, four out of ten suffer from two or more chronic illnesses.
Since the definition of chronic illness is extremely broad, there are dozens of illnesses that can be classified as a chronic illness. Some examples of chronic illnesses include:
- Chronic lung disease - asthma or COPD
- Chronic kidney disease
- Heart disease such as heart attack, heart failure, coronary heart disease and strokes
- Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia
Chronic Illness Prevention
Engaging in risky behaviors, such as smoking, can increase your risk of developing some chronic illnesses. By making certain lifestyle changes, you can reduce your risk for developing some chronic illnesses.
Some lifestyle changes you can make that may help with chronic illness prevention include:
- Stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly - avoid leading an inactive and sedentary lifestyle
- Eat a healthy diet - avoid excessive sugar intake, reduce salt intake, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Schedule regular appointments for check-ups with your doctor
Some factors that cause chronic illness, such as genetics and gender, cannot be controlled. This means you can still be at risk for developing chronic illnesses. Avoiding behaviors that increase your risk can dramatically reduce your chances of developing a life-altering condition or illness.
Chronic Illnesses Usually Cannot be Cured
Most chronic illnesses cannot be cured. Some can be maintained, but they often never go away completely.
It is important that you work with your healthcare provider to create a maintenance plan for your chronic illness. This will improve your quality of life as you know what you need to do to remain as healthy as possible with your chronic illness.
The maintenance and treatment plan you create with your healthcare provider will vary depending upon your chronic illness or illnesses. Some of the things that will be addressed in your maintenance and treatment plan can include:
- Full explanation of your chronic illness or disease - helps you better understand your condition
- Overview of treatment options - treatment options can include traditional treatments such as medications and surgeries or alternative treatment options
- Lifestyle modifications
- Recommended schedule for appointments and medications
- Recommendation for support services that can help with everything from emotional support to help with completing everyday tasks
Living with a Chronic Illness
Living life with a chronic illness is sort of like riding a rollercoaster. Some days you may feel wonderful and may be able to do anything you want, other days you may not be able to complete even the simplest of tasks.
The uncertainty that comes with a chronic illness can make things stressful. Luckily, there are things you and your loved ones can do that can help reduce your stress and improve quality of life.
Don't be Afraid of Asking for Help
When completing everyday tasks starts to become difficult, it is important to ask for help. Family and friends are often the first people you turn to for help in these situations. However, you might be worried about feeling like a burden or taking up their time. After all, the help you need with a chronic illness will be long term. It is important to know who you can call for help when you need it.
It is a great idea to connect with a home care agency, like Home Instead Gorham, ME, for help with chronic illnesses. Home Instead can provide you with access to experienced, qualified Care Pros who can help with all sorts of tasks from medication reminders to activities of daily living.
When working with Home Instead Gorham, ME, we will help create a customized service plan that align with your needs. We realize that your situation is unique, and your daily needs may vary. As part of our process, we will sit down with you for a Care Consultation to better understand what a ‘good’ day looks like for you or your loved one versus a day where you experience more difficulty with everyday activities. Our goal is to promote your independence so you can continue to remain in the home you love while having access to qualified caregivers who can step in and help when you need it most.
Chronic illnesses do impact your life. However, you can continue to live your best life possible by reaching out for help when you need it most. Contact Home Instead Gorham, ME at (207) 839-0441 to learn more about how our Care Professionals can help improve the quality of life for you or a loved one who is suffering from a chronic illness.