Chronic Conditions: 8 Ways to Cope

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Many people who care for an aging loved one have their own daily struggles with chronic conditions, facing challenges that aren’t always apparent to their friends and family. With a condition like high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes or arthritis, you may look fine on the outside, which may make it hard for others around you to recognize your limitations and offer the support you need.

However, the better informed and better organized you are, the easier it can be to manage your disease and take charge of how you respond to the challenges.


8 Steps to Help You Cope

The following 8 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 the family member you’re caring for.

  1. Get information. Direct your questions to your doctor or nurse, and also ask them about trusted sources of medical information on the Web.
  2. 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.
  3. Build a team. Your primary care physician may not have all of the answers. Seek out specialists and other resources like nurses and dietitians.
  4. 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 condition.
  5.  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 (PDF 331k) to help stay organized and bring it when you visit the doctor or pharmacy.
  6. Beware of depression. It’s believed to be more common in people with chronic diseases. Learn the signs, as depression can discourage you from taking important medications, seeing your doctor when you need to, or pursuing healthy habits.
  7. Reach out. Look for a support group and talk with people who are dealing with the same condition.
  8. 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.

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. Consider contacting your local Home Instead Senior Care office for a free, no-obligation care consultation.