Aging comes with many consequences. But the worst one so far is the increasing vulnerability to chronic diseases.
A chronic disease refers to any health condition that lasts for more than a year and needs continuing medical attention. These kinds of illnesses have no definite cure and limit you from doing your daily living activities. Some of the most common chronic health conditions that affect seniors include:
- Heart diseases
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Kidney and liver disease
- Hypertension and high cholesterol
According to NCOA, 80% of seniors aged 65 and above have at least one chronic disease. At the same time, 68% or four in ten seniors are diagnosed with two chronic illnesses.
Chronic health conditions can develop during your prime years (age 40 to 55). But you didn’t feel it at the time since you still have a robust immune system. However, now that you have aged, your immune system does not function as vigorously as it did before. Thus, allowing your underlying heart disease to show itself.
If you currently have one of the diseases mentioned above, then it’s high time that you start taking it seriously. Chronic illnesses may not have a cure yet, but there are ways to manage them and prevent them from becoming severe and fatal.
Are you ready to take control of your disease and not let it rule your life? Here are smart tips on how you can manage your chronic health condition to start your healing journey.
1. Partner With Your Doctor
The best strategy to manage your disease is early detection and promoting good health. You can achieve this by partnering with a trusted healthcare provider or doctor specializing in your specific chronic illness.
For instance, if you have heart disease, it’s ideal to seek primary medical care from a cardiologist. If your loved one has dementia, get professional help from a neurologist or in a dementia assisted living facility.
Furthermore, partnering with your doctor means that you don’t leave everything to them. Do your part in taking care of your health. This includes monitoring body changes, observing symptoms, and strictly adhering to your doctor’s orders.
2. Get Information About Your Disease
Manage your (or your senior loved one’s) long-term illness by researching it. Gather credible information about the disease, including why it happens, what triggers it, and how to treat it. The more you know about the illness, the better you’ll be able to manage it.
Remember to only get your facts straight from reliable sources like your doctor, nurse, or legitimate health websites (e.g., CDC and WHO)
3. Manage Your Medications
Almost all doctors give specific maintenance medications to help patients manage their chronic illnesses. So, it is essential to follow your doctor’s prescriptions to the dot.
Remembering to take a pill a day is not much of a problem. But seniors with chronic illnesses usually get prescribed multiple medications. Juggling these medicines with different time and dosage recommendations can be difficult.
So, here’s how you or your caregiver can manage your medications efficiently:
- Use a pill organizer or create a dosing schedule chart.
- Use a pill medication app or an alarm that reminds you what pill to take for that specific time of the day.
- Always read the prescription label before taking a pill.
- Seek help from family members, caregivers, or healthcare providers.
- If your loved one is in a dementia assisted living community, inform their caregiver about their medications.
4. Prioritize Your Nutrition
Poor nutrition does nothing but complicate your chronic health condition. So, if you want to lengthen your lifespan and live a healthy life, then make your nutrition a priority!
Practice a healthy diet that’s in line with what your doctor suggests. If you have diabetes, then you better limit your sugar and food intake. For hypertensive seniors, avoid eating dishes high in sodium and cholesterol.
Eat healthily by following some of these valuable nutrition tips.
- Follow your doctor’s prescribed dietary practice.
- Avoid processed foods and pre-packed snacks with preservatives.
- Eat your veggies, lean meat, and fruits in healthy portions.
- Cook your meals the healthy way (e.g., broiling, steaming, and baking).
- Fill your stomach with 8 to 9 glasses of water daily.
If you no longer have the strength to prepare your meals, you can ask a family member for assistance. Also, you can employ a caregiver to handle your cooking and other daily living activities. Another option is to seek the help of a nutritionist.
5. Practice Good Lifestyle Choices
Besides a proper diet, you should also start doing activities that can help you battle your disease. Also, it is time to let go of your vices and the things that make your health and body suffer more. Some of the best healthy lifestyle practices to live by include:
- Mild to moderate physical activity that suits your health and fitness condition. Talk to your doctor first before engaging in any kind of exercise.
- Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking at all costs.
- Limit caffeine and other unhealthy beverages.
- Get a goodnight’s rest to let your body recuperate. Make sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- For seniors with dementia, it’s essential to keep the brain active by engaging in mind-stimulating activities.
For family caregivers, you can encourage your loved ones to follow a healthy lifestyle by going through it with them. For dementia assisted living caregivers, show your support by helping them adjust to this new lifestyle.
6. Look After Your Mental and Emotional Health
Having a long-term chronic disease that has no known treatment yet can be a lot to handle. Dealing with it can become stressful in the long-run. It can take a toll on your mental and emotional health.
So, besides taking care of your physical body, you should also look after your mental health. Managing your health condition takes a lot of time, adjustment, and effort, so don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself. It’s okay to get support from loved ones when the going gets tough.