A chronic illness is any condition or disease that is long-lasting and has no cure but must be managed on an ongoing basis. For some people, an illness can be so debilitating it interferes with activities of daily living such as bathing, eating and toileting. For others, living with chronic disease is more of an inconvenience yet it still needs to be managed effectively.
Examples of chronic illness include:
- Allergies and asthma
- Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
- Back pain or joint pain
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Crohn’s disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Immunodeficiency disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Substance use disorder
Chronic illness self-management: What’s involved
There are three fundamental aspects of managing chronic illness:
- Medication management and medical appointments
- Behavioral management
- Emotional management
Medication management of chronic illness
Keeping up with medications and medical appointments are critical when it comes to chronic condition care. Many health conditions, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, even depression, require a consistent medication regimen for the body to achieve optimal health in the face of disease. If doses of medication are missed, or doubled by mistake, you could easily backslide into poor health or make yourself vulnerable to the symptoms of your illness.
Making and keeping doctor appointments is also important for people with chronic conditions. Unlike an annual visit, for example, chronic care appointments are usually more frequently held throughout the year. This gives your provider an opportunity to ask questions and allows you to share any concerns you might have. If there are adjustments that need to be made, you and your provider can discuss a new plan rather than allowing a compromised situation to get out of control.
Behavioral management of chronic illness
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic disease or living with one for a long time, you understand the importance of making behavioral adjustments. This could be anything from taking time every week to organize medications and setting reminders for when to take them to setting aside time for self-care and taking a daily walk because it will lift your spirits and improve your health.
You may also have to come to terms with pulling back on certain activities or even social events that used to be enjoyable for you, because of your condition. Having a chronic illness might also affect you financially so you may have to budget differently. These are all considerations when managing a chronic illness—and not everyone will understand what you’re going through.
That’s where the emotional aspect of self-management comes in.
Emotional management of chronic illness
Being diagnosed with a chronic disease may be shocking or upsetting at first. You might go through different stages or you may experience a variety of emotions at different times, triggered by circumstances, from grief and fear to anger and sadness. All of this is completely normal, but it also means you have a lot more to deal with on top of managing the medical aspects of your condition, let alone living your life as fully as possible.
You may find yourself dealing with depression for the first time in your life. Or you may lash out at well-meaning friends and family members. It’s important to surround yourself with people you feel comfortable with and can trust with your feelings, no matter what you’re going through. And be sure to let others know the challenges you’re facing. People in your life want to be supportive; it’s up to you to let them know how to do that.
A care team for managing chronic illness
Many people with long-term disease find that keeping up with all the medications and appointments as well as dealing with the psychological, financial, and/or emotional stress of chronic illness can be too much on the person dealing with illness. It’s also tough on caregivers, who may be living far away or aren’t able to assist physically or financially as needed.
Depending on your level of need, you may be eligible for chronic care management services through your doctor’s office. Chronic care management provides a level of support that takes the headache and stress out of medications and doctor visits, assists you with access to medical equipment, facilitates follow-up care, and other types of support services you might need.
Need to discuss chronic care services?
Chronic care management is integral to our practice. Get in touch today to see how we can help. Call (941) 303-5713.