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Tips For Living With Chronic Illness

By Denise S. Pott, LCSW
Assistance Home Care

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain,” – Vivian Greene

Many of us are living with chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, COPD, or fibromyalgia. We struggle with issues such as limited mobility, special diets, chronic pain, fatigue, and other difficulties. Sometimes it’s hard to get through the day, and the thought of living a lifetime with the condition can seem overwhelming.

As with many situations in life, you can choose to give up, or you can choose to fight. Fighting means finding ways to cope with the illness and its effects. For those who choose to fight, here are some important tips for living well in spite of chronic illness.

Tip #1: Learn All You Can About Your Condition
There is a lot of information out there! Most likely, your doctor will have a pamphlet or two to share with you. If you are internet savvy, go online to search out more information, or go to the library for books on the subject. Many organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and the Arthritis Foundation have compiled their own libraries of information that they will gladly share with you. Some organizations even offer classes or support groups.

Tip #2: Go To At Least Three Support Group Meetings
Most support group meetings will begin with an educational speaker who will address some aspect of your condition. Later, others will speak informally and you will see that others face the same challenges that you do. If you wish, you can ask questions or talk about your own difficulties. Oftentimes, the group can provide practical advice and direct you to programs and services in your community. Why three meetings? Not all meetings are the same; if you go only once you may not feel comfortable. Go at least three times to see how you feel about the group. If you pick up only one idea from each meeting you will probably feel that it has been worthwhile attending.

Tip #3: Let Go of Your Expectations
Living with a chronic illness may mean that things change from day to day, or it could mean that the future that you have planned is no longer the future that you see before you. One of the biggest challenges that you will face is to find a way to accept change and develop a new and flexible view of the future.
Try to let go of any guilt or blame surrounding your illness. It is not your fault, or anyone else’s. Finding a mental health professional that can help you with this process is strongly recommended for those who are struggling.

Tip #4: Honor Your Limitations
You may no longer be able to do the things that you once did, but you may be able to find a new way to do them. If you have difficulty with walking, you may need to use a cane or walker, or even a scooter, to maintain your mobility and safety. Rather than struggle without a device, realize that it can help you reach your goals. If you need to follow a special diet, do it to the best of your ability. If fatigue is a problem, work with an occupational therapist to learn energy conservation techniques. Rest when you are tired instead of forcing yourself to remain active. In many cases, honoring your limitations can actually improve your condition and get you farther than you ever dreamed.

Tip #5: Ask for Help When You Need It
Safety is the big consideration here. There are often many people who are willing to help, but they don’t know how. Although it may be hard, ask for the help you need. If you struggle to get your trashcans to the curb, ask a neighbor or family member for help, then find a way to return the favor.

If you no longer feel safe bathing on your own or going down stairs to do laundry, you may want to consider asking friends or family or hiring non-medical home care to help you with some of your personal care and everyday tasks. You can get help for a few hours each month, or twenty-four hours per day, based on your needs and preferences. By having a plan in place, you will know who to call in the event of a flare-up or other emergency. Non-medical home care can also free up time that your loved ones may be using to assist you, enabling them to simply enjoy your company and act as family, rather than as caregivers. Your loved ones will have peace of mind, knowing that you are safe and have the help that you need.

Article provided by Assistance Home Care. For more information please call 314-677-1292 or 636-352-4372. Assistanceathome.com

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