Chronic Illness 3


At any one time in the UK, as many as 17.5 million adults may be living with a chronic disease. There are thousands of chronic conditions which affect people from mid-life onwards, including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Although many of these diseases can be serious or even potentially fatal, modern medicine has meant that most people can control their condition with close supervision, medication, surgery and other treatments, living with it for decades.

For more help and advice on chronic illness contact our team at Mediterranean Quality Care Services.

Disclaimer

All content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

The older you are, the more likely it is that you have to manage some sort of chronic health problem. Almost three-quarters of people aged over 75 suffer from one or more longstanding illnesses. But even among 16- to 24-year-olds, one in four will be living with a long-term condition.

Day-to-Day Problems

Once someone is diagnosed with a chronic lifelong condition, they face problems such as:

  • Ongoing physical symptoms, which may be controlled by medication, slowly progress or come and go
  • The need to take medication regularly, managing any side effects, or have other therapies or interventions
  • Managing work and sustaining an income despite their condition, which can cause financial difficulties
  • Psychological problems resulting from stress and anxiety

All these factors can contribute to a reduced quality of life and sometimes a sense of social exclusion. Those who get involved in managing their condition by learning about the issues and working with their doctors, nurses and therapists, tend to cope better and gain more control over their bodies and lives.

Learning About Your Condition

Learning about your condition is the key to recognising what is happening to you. There are plenty of good information sources such as:

  • Your GP practice
  • The local pharmacist
  • Your local library (they may be able to help you search online for reliable information)
  • Patient support groups (most have some sort of national self help group which can provide information and even local meetings – try searching online for your condition if you haven’t already)

Using Medicines

Learn how to use your medicines effectively (remembering which ones to take at the right times) and recognise any side effects. When prescribing a medicine, the pharmacist should always check that you understand how to use it. If you have any questions, go back and ask them.

Read the information that comes with the medicine. It’s good to know the possible complications or side effects (but try not to let these prey on your mind as most are usually rare or minor). Always keep a written note of what medicines you are on. This may be useful if you’re suddenly taken ill, lose your medicines while out or need to check for side effects.

Most medicines are recommended to be given at a specific time of day. In some conditions timings may be critical (such as in Parkinson’s disease) so always make sure you understand when you should be taking them and why.

If you have lots of medicines or problems remembering what to take, talk to your pharmacist about the many devices that people can use to help, such as dosette boxes (to carry your daily/hourly tablets) or even call services. Maybe just setting a timer at home or on your mobile phone will help.

Employment Issues

You may find you have to deal with work issues such as negotiating flexible hours or time off. If you feel able to do so, talk to your employers, about your condition. However, you’re not obliged to, and some people prefer to keep health issues private. If you can talk to someone, even if it’s a supportive colleague rather than the boss, you may feel better for having someone who understands what you are dealing with, and who may be able to offer support over specific issues in the workplace. If you can, get advice about illness-related issues from your union and find out what your entitlements are, regarding sick leave or flexible working.

If things are getting difficult, your employers may be able to consider part-time work, different hours, a work-break or some sort of flexible working arrangement.

Staying Positive

Coping with the psychological consequences of the illness can be tough, but staying positive can really help your outlook. It can be difficult with a chronic condition to stay optimistic, especially if you’re continually battling unpleasant symptoms, but trying to spot what gives you particular stress or depression and finding strategies to deal with them will really help.

Deal with practical or emotional issues as they develop, rather than letting them fester or weigh you down. If you take steps to take control, no matter how small, this empowerment alone will start to make you feel better. Follow a regular lifestyle with a balanced diet, daily exercise (if possible) and plenty of rest and sleep is vital to coping with stress. Take time out regularly to relax or do something you enjoy. Most people benefit from having someone they can offload their feelings to – a family member, friend or maybe a professional.

Talk to your GP if you feel you need support from a counsellor, or you can’t seem to get on top of things.

Help is Available

There is a lot of help available for people living with a chronic condition:

  • You can access help from social services or other voluntary and governmental sources or support agencies, including claiming benefits but local help can vary from area to area. It can be difficult finding out what is available locally and how to access it – talk to your surgery or local support groups for your condition.
  • Your local social services department may be able to help, guiding you to claiming benefits or by appointing you a case manager if appropriate. Your GP´s surgery may also be able to offer some advice.
  • Check with relevant agencies – for example your bank, your employer or your faith organisation, to see if they have anything which could help your situation.
  • Many charities offer help relevant to chronic conditions. The Red Cross hires out wheelchairs and other equipment for example, while Age UK can offer all sorts of advice for the elderly from claiming benefits to finding carers or a care home.

Ask in your surgery or visit www.expertpatients.co.uk for more information.

Disclaimer

All content on this website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.

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