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!
Pull out the sugar plums and figgy pudding: the holidays are here! Many of us have those extra special, once-a-year recipes that simply must be prepared and shared, whether it’s Grandma’s prize-winning roast goose, Aunt Ethel’s pecan pie, or the extended family’s homemade cookie swap. And while these delicacies are certainly a delight, for those struggling with chronic disease management, overdoing them can be dangerous.
Older adults with chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis or other autoimmune disorders may face challenges throughout the year with sticking to a prescribed dietary plan and healthy activity level, and during the holiday season, those struggles can be exacerbated. It’s especially difficult when attending parties and other festive functions to avoid certain foods or feel the need to make special requests, or to have to cut visits short due to pain or fatigue from the disease.
According to Patricia Fennell, MSW, LCSW-R, “Holidays act like a lightning rod where all the physical and social concerns around chronic illness get really highlighted.”
So what’s the best way to find balance between chronic disease management and holiday enjoyment? These tips can help:
- Plan in advance. Let family members and friends know upfront about any limitations your senior loved one may be facing when planning a get-together – such as the need to keep the visit short if symptoms of the disease are flaring, or any particular food requirements. Packing a few snacks in adherence to the senior’s dietary plan is always a good idea to ensure he or she has a healthy option available.
- Keep outings low-key. Trying to cram in a full day of holiday shopping at the mall on a busy Saturday afternoon may be more than a senior with a chronic disease can muster. Picking an off-time for shopping together, minimizing purchases and stopping for frequent breaks will make for a more successful outing.
- Reduce stress. The higher levels of stress inherent with the holiday season can have a profound effect on older adults with chronic diseases. Be sure to set aside plenty of time for relaxing activities, such as stretching out with a good book and a cup of herbal tea, enjoying a board game together, or taking an afternoon nap.
At Nightingale Homecare, our RN-managed care always includes careful attention to the needs of those with chronic diseases through our Pathlink Chronic Disease Management program. We can help seniors and their families enjoy the holiday season to the fullest without compromising their health. Contact us to learn more about our expert Phoenix senior care and chronic disease management services!
Dietary restrictions. Finger pricks. Multiple medications. Exercise regimens. Doctors’ appointments. Keeping all of the facets of diabetes management under control can become overwhelming for seniors and those who care for them!
If a beloved senior in your life struggles with type 2 diabetes, try these tips to help ensure optimum health:
- Monitoring: Consistent tracking of glucose levels is crucial to keeping the disease under control. Check with the doctor to see if home glucose monitoring is an option.
- Meals: Since different foods can cause dramatic effects on glucose levels, it’s important to carefully plan meals, and then stick to that plan.
- Movement: While a physician-approved exercise program can help anyone improve their overall health, it’s particularly imperative for diabetics to keep moving, as exercise can also have an impact on glucose levels.
- Medical: Different areas of the body can be affected by diabetes, such as the eyes, kidneys, teeth and gums. Annual eye exams and urine/blood tests to verify kidney health, along with twice yearly dental checkups, can keep diabetes-related issues throughout the body at bay.
Additionally, blood pressure and cholesterol levels need to be within appropriate ranges, as specified by the doctor. And annual flu shots are a must, along with a pneumonia vaccination for those over age 65.
While medical costs for diabetes care management can escalate quickly with all of these requirements, it’s helpful to note that Medicare helps with covering expenses for diabetes test kits and other supplies, medical exams, diabetic-specific footwear, and even meal planning. Visit www.medicare.gov or call them at 1-800-633-4227 to learn more.
Nightingale Homecare has been providing Phoenix senior care for over 20 years, and can help your senior loved one better manage diabetes, or any other chronic condition, through our Pathlink Chronic Disease Management program, using nationally-recognized standards of care, including:
- Patient self-management skills to promote sustained outcome improvement
- Health literacy assessment and intervention tools
- Technology for effective patient management and ongoing clinical oversight
We can also help with planning and preparing nutritious and delicious meals, providing transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and procedures, picking up prescriptions and running errands, and overall providing a cheerful countenance to brighten the day with our fully trained and experienced, patient, and compassionate caregiving team. Contact us at 602-504-1555 to learn more and to get started.