Caring for someone with a chronic disease can be challenging and emotionally draining due to the uncertainty of the situation, the progress of the disease and the changes this may bring about for the person you're caring for. It will often mean finding out all you can about their particular condition, and how to manage it.
A condition may be considered a chronic disease if it is a long-term condition that generally does not get better on its own and is generally not cured completely.
Some of the tips and information below may help you to look after a person with a chronic disease. They have worked for other carers so why not give them a try?
What are common chronic diseases for older people?
Some of the most common chronic diseases for older people are listed below. Follow each link to read more about the condition on the Australian Government's healthdirect website, including information about any services and support programs that are available:
- arthritis including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- coronary heart disease
- mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression
- oral disease
What about self-managing chronic diseases?
As a carer you can play an important role in helping the person you care for do what they can to self-manage their chronic disease.
Self-management is all about learning:
- all you can about the disease, its treatment and management
- about and understanding the medications prescribed including what they are for, any special instructions and potential side effects
- skills to help manage the fatigue, pain, frustration and isolation that people with chronic disease often get
- to communicate effectively with health professionals by answering questions accurately, asking your own questions and making sure you understand the information provided to you. (Of course, it's important to remember that if you want to speak to the health professionals about the chronic disease of the person you care for, you will need the person's written consent. Ask the health professional about the best way to do this.)
- how to improve nutrition and general health
- how to include appropriate activity and fitness sessions into daily routines and practising relaxation techniques and problem-solving skills
- about and accessing community support groups that are available and other useful resources
- to manage the emotions that often seem to be part and parcel of everyday life.
The person you care for may also like to attend a specifically designed information session for people living with chronic conditions.
Contact your local GP for more information on these courses in your area.
What else might help?
Allied health services such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, diabetes educators, exercise physiology, psychology and other selected complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture may be helpful in treating chronic diseases. Find out more about how to access other health support services.
If you're looking for products to help manage disabilities in daily life, try Independent Living Centres. These centres carry a wide range of products and equipment, so you can decide which one best suits your needs.
Support for you
When you spend most of your time looking after other people it's easy to forget to look after yourself too. It is very important to take time to look after yourself, to help you stay fit, healthy and relaxed. Here are some tips to help you take care of your own health and well-being. There are also counselling and other support services available to help you.