Caring for someone with a chronic disease can be challenging and emotionally draining. This is because of the uncertainty of the situation, the progress of the disease and the changes this may cause in 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 chronic disease is a long-term condition that does not get better on its own and is not cured completely.
Tips and information below may help you to look after a person with a chronic disease.
Common chronic diseases in older people
Some of the most common chronic diseases affecting older people are listed below. Follow each link to read more about the condition on the Australian Government’s healthdirect website, including information about services and support programs:
- arthritis including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic kidney disease (on the Kidney Australia website)
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (on the Australian Lung Foundation website)
- coronary heart disease
- mental health conditions (on the Head to Health website)
- oral disease
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 manage their own chronic disease.
Self-management is about learning:
- all you can about the disease, its treatment and management
- about and understanding the medications prescribed
- 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 given to you. Remember that if you want to speak to 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 activity and fitness sessions into daily routines
- how to practise relaxation techniques and problem-solving skills
- about and accessing community support groups and other useful resources
- to manage emotions that often seem to be part of everyday life.
The person you care for may also like to attend an information session designed for people living with chronic conditions. Contact your local GP for more information on courses in your area.
These allied health services may be helpful in treating chronic diseases:
- diabetes education
- exercise physiology
- other selected complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture.
Carer Gateway is a useful source of information on services and supports for caring for someone with a chronic disease.