Many senior citizens struggle with chronic health conditions. Being diagnosed with a chronic condition like cancer, depression, heart disease, arthritis, or COPD can be scary and overwhelming. Without proper treatment and lifestyle management, these long-term health challenges can be debilitating, exhausting, and demoralizing. Thankfully, if you’re willing to be proactive and make a few changes, most chronic conditions don’t have to reduce your quality of life. You can still live a happy, productive, and full life. Here, we will review some practical tips on managing chronic health conditions for seniors.
Understand Your Condition
It’s important to know the type and severity of your chronic health condition to effectively manage it. Some commonly diagnosed chronic conditions include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Vision problems (cataracts, macular degeneration, etc)
- Hearing loss or conditions like tinnitus
- Depression, anxiety, and mental health conditions
These conditions represent a wide variety of types of illnesses. Of course, the way you manage your condition will depend on what diagnosis you have received. However, all of these conditions have a few things in common. For one, they are all long-term illnesses that affect seniors on a daily basis. They likely interfere with your everyday life, and will require you to seek treatment and make lifestyle changes.
Getting education about your specific condition(s) will help make things a little easier and less scary. Make sure you seek reputable sources like scholarly journals, official websites, doctors, and support groups. While medical professionals have the benefit of extensive training and experience in your condition, they are also only human. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion or seek education beyond the doctor you usually see.
While you are seeking further education, ask your doctor about symptoms, treatments, and possible complications. Although it may seem scary at first, understanding the prognosis of your condition will make it easier to manage and reduce the stress of the unknown.
Create A Management Routine
Since chronic conditions affect you on a daily basis over a long period of time, you will probably need to do something to manage your condition every day. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change everything you do! Small lifestyle changes and adding healthy habits could make a big difference in your quality of life.
Almost all chronic conditions benefit from lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet, more exercise, good sleep, and lower stress. Start with small changes and always consult your doctor before making any changes to your current routine. For example, with your doctor’s approval, consider adding a ten-minute walk to your daily routine. This will give you an exercise boost that could lead to big changes down the road.
Treatment and Medication
Chronic conditions usually require treatment beyond healthy habits and lifestyle changes. In most cases, medication and other medical interventions will also be necessary.
It’s important to pay close attention to what your doctor says about your medication(s). Ask about possible side effects and when you might need to be concerned or call your doctor. Also, make sure you take the medication at the times your doctor has prescribed, and find out if you should be taking this medicine with food. Note what foods you may need to avoid before or after taking your medication. For example, some medications make you sleepy and may be best taken at night. Some diabetes and blood pressure medicines interact negatively with foods like grapefruit. Medications for mental health may take up to 6 weeks to reach full efficacy. This is the kind of information you will need for your medication to be effective.
Once you have all the information you can get about your medicine, make sure you take it! This can be difficult to remember. You can use pill organizers, ask for help from family or senior living staff, or set reminders on your watch or phone to help you keep track of what medicines you have taken and when.
Whatever your diagnosis is, you don’t have to go through this alone. A strong support system makes any chronic condition easier to manage. Stay in touch with your doctor and other medical providers, and make sure you go to regular appointments and checkups to monitor your condition. Involve your family and friends in your treatment, too. Sometimes people don’t want to tell their loved ones about their diagnosis because they fear being a burden. However, your loved ones would probably love an opportunity to support you and show their love. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether you need a ride to an appointment, a walking buddy, or just a chat.
If you don’t have loved ones nearby to support you, look into support groups for your condition. Whether online or in person, you can find others who are walking this same path.
A diagnosis of a chronic condition doesn’t have to mean the end of your happiness. Managing chronic health conditions is extremely important for seniors. By managing your chronic health condition with education, small changes, support, and proactive decisions, you can still maintain a great quality of life. Still struggling to cope with your condition? It may be time to consider senior living. Senior living communities offer a wide range of services, from just a little help with dressing and daily tasks to full-time care. Tour a community near you today.