Most of us will, at one point or another in our lives, take care of a family member or close friend, and there is a good chance that the loved one being cared for will have at least one chronic disease. It is estimated that about half of all adults have one or more chronic health conditions, and one in four have two or more.
The following tips, courtesy of the Arizona home health care team at Nightingale Homecare, can help you get up to speed on how best to support your senior loved one to live the healthiest life possible when faced with a chronic health condition.
Learn About the Disease and Participate
Any new diagnosis presents a learning curve. Your best first step is to take the time to educate yourself on the chronic disease diagnosis and how to manage it. Your loved one’s health care provider is a great place to begin asking for educational materials, or visit an official website for the disease. Nightingale Homecare’s Pathlink chronic disease management program also helps patients newly diagnosed with a chronic disease, teaching self-management skills and providing educational materials and guidance along the way. Participating in your loved one’s doctor appointments, nursing visits and educational seminars will help you gain a better understanding of the disease, and the management of it. Ask questions and take notes. Make sure the health care team knows your loved one’s concerns or apprehensions, if they aren’t able to verbalize those concerns themselves.
Guide Self-Management Practices
One thing you will learn quickly is that it is vital for the person with a chronic disease to self-manage and pay attention to self-care. It is important to encourage, but not to overwhelm your loved one. The health care team can help with your approach so that your encouragement doesn’t overwhelm your loved one. It’s often helpful when you make any necessary lifestyle changes alongside your loved one; taking walks and exercising together, and making healthy changes to your meal plan are great starts! Gentle reminders and oversight are important, but give your loved one time to adjust to the lifestyle change in order to achieve long-term success.
Set Small Goals
Taking a step-by-step approach is the easiest way to make long-term changes. Making small changes with a few specific goals to your loved one’s lifestyle rather than making a lot of big changes all at once is much more motivating for patients. Of course, there are changes your loved one’s doctor may want to see sooner rather than later, so be sure and include the health care team in identifying those immediate goals.
Support for the Caregiver
Learning to care for the complex health care needs of a loved one can take its toll on the caregiver. Acknowledging this stress can be the first step in coping. Be certain you find support for yourself. If you can find a support group for caregivers, consider joining; it can help tremendously to meet others who know exactly what you are going through! And partner with the Arizona home health care professionals at Nightingale Homecare for trusted senior care that provides peace of mind to families and high quality care to older adults, right where they’re most comfortable – at home. Call us any time at (602) 504-1555 to schedule a free in-home assessment to learn more!