A chronic disease may affect you at any stage in your life, however, as you grow older, the chances of developing certain chronic diseases can increase.
Whether you're living in your own home or in an aged care home, there are services that specialise in helping people with a chronic disease.
What is a chronic disease?
A chronic disease is a long-term condition that generally does not get better on its own and is generally not cured completely. Chronic diseases can lead to other health complications, and can be associated with functional impairment and disability.
Some chronic diseases can be immediately life-threatening, such as heart attack and stroke. Others can persist over time and can be intensive in terms of management (e.g. diabetes).
Visit the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website for a more detailed overview of chronic diseases.
What are the most common chronic diseases?
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 (on the Australian Lung Foundation website)
- coronary heart disease
- mental health disorders such as depression
- Oral disease
What about self-managing chronic diseases?
If you're living with a chronic disease, you may like to attend a specifically designed information session that can help you to self-manage the disease.
Contact your local GP for more information on these courses in your area.
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 fatigue, pain, frustration and isolation
- to communicate better with health professionals by answering questions accurately, asking your own questions and making sure you understand the information provided to you
- how to improve your nutrition and general health
- how to include appropriate activity and fitness sessions into your day
- practising relaxation techniques and problem-solving skills
- about and accessing community support groups that are available
- to manage the emotions that often seem to be part and parcel of everyday life.
Information and support is also available for those caring for someone with a chronic disease.
What services can help?
If you're an older person living at home, there are many aged care services that may support you to maintain your independence. These services may include help with day-to-day personal care activities such as dressing or grooming, household tasks such as cleaning and washing, or even home maintenance such as changing light bulbs or keeping your lawn mowed.
Or, you and your carer and family may feel that you need the supported environment of an aged care home to help you manage your chronic disease. Read more about moving into an aged care home.
Allied health and other therapies
Allied health services such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, diabetes educator, exercise physiology, psychology and other selected complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture may also be helpful in treating chronic diseases.
Some services for chronic disease management (known as 'primary care services') may be subsidised by the Australian Government through Medicare. The Medicare Benefits Schedule website lists Medicare services that are subsidised by the Government. You can also ask your doctor about these services.
Goods and equipment
If you're living with a chronic disease, there are various goods and equipment that may help you with your day-to-day living activities. You can visit an Independent Living Centre to try out products on display and talk to the centre's occupational therapists on their information lines. Staff at these centres are trained to match products and services to your requirements and can help you locate suppliers of special-needs equipment. Visit the Independent Living Centre website to find your nearest centre.
Creating an eHealth record will also help with managing chronic diseases. A personally controlled eHealth record is a secure online summary of your health information. You control what goes into it, and who is allowed to access it. Your eHealth record allows you and your doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers to view and share your health information to provide you with the best possible care. For more information, see the Personally Controlled eHealth Record System.