Many Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, and most rely on regular tests and treatments to be healthier, more comfortable and more productive.
But many people with chronic illnesses find it daunting to keep up with prescribed treatments, such as daily pills for high blood pressure, peak flow meters for asthma, insulin for diabetes, and exercise treatments for arthritis.
Coping with a chronic illness that requires long-term treatment is difficult for people to go through, particularly when they're first diagnosed. It's a shift from a carefree existence to having to depend on doctors, medications or other treatments.
Yet there are ways you can fit nearly any regimen more smoothly into your lifestyle if you don't mind a few challenges and enjoy solving problems.
Visit respected medical sites on the Internet; bring home books about your condition from the library or a bookstore.
The more you learn about your condition and why your treatment is important, the more you can stay active and involved in your health care. Review your treatment goals with your health care provider during each visit to ensure that they're realistic.
Make it simple for yourself. What do you need to do in a 24-hour period? What pills do you need to take, when do you need to take them, what other treatments or tests do you need to self-administer, and when? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself in order to begin organizing.
Once you know your treatment plan, you can:
Purchase a plastic pillbox that has compartments for Monday through Sunday if you take pills daily. People are often resistant to this idea. If you fill the pillbox once a week, your sorting work is done. When the simplicity comes through, you'll realize you can do this.
Place your medical gear in a small case that goes with you wherever you go. Whether it's a glucometer or an asthma inhaler and spacer, having everything organized within your briefcase or purse makes it easier for you to be compliant.
Ask your physician if your medication regimen can be simplified. For example, is there a drug you could take only once a day instead of four times?
Enter it in your daily calendar. For example: 12:30 p.m.: Take brisk walk. 2 p.m.: Check blood sugar. When do you need to self-administer insulin? When do you need to use your inhaler or peak flow meter? Write it in.
Many people get so wrapped up in the medications, dietary restrictions, health tests and the other lifestyle changes they may have to deal with for the rest of their lives, they experience it all as a negative. This is really all about chronic health, not chronic disease. This is what's going to sustain you and allow you to do what you want to do. Reframing the situation in this way is an effective coping skill that can be learned.
Explain your treatment routine to friends and family and tell them about your emergency plan, so that they can help when necessary.
A journal can help you to track your symptoms and test results—such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure or blood sugar levels, peak flow meter readings, or body weight—and to record your feelings, questions and concerns.
Many people obsess about their questions and concerns in between doctor's visits, but then forget all about them as soon as they don an examination gown. Jotting things down in a journal and bringing it with you to doctor's visits can serve as a helpful reminder.
Support groups can be extremely helpful for people with chronic illnesses, particularly when they are newly diagnosed. The interaction can improve your life in countless ways when you are able to share your feelings and experiences with a group of people who can relate to how your illness touches all facets of your life.
Organizations with local support groups for chronic illness:
American Diabetes Association
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
If something changes in your condition, or if you're thinking about changing your prescribed treatment regimen, it is very important stay in touch with your physician before doing anything.
© 2013 Main Line Health