Chronic illnesses tend to find older adults more easily. It is estimated that about 60 percent of American adults suffer from chronic illnesses including cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions. Other than the toll it takes on the body, these diseases bear a huge weight on the finances. Over time, the visible impact on the person’s cognitive and physical capabilities will eventually also take a toll on the family and caregivers.
Indeed, taking care of a family member going with such conditions can be tough. As a caregiver, you want to do the best you can for them, but sometimes may feel helpless or be unsure about how to do so. Here are some tips for caring for aging parents with chronic diseases.
Understand the Disease
Learning more about the diseases your loved one is suffering from allows you to more effectively manage their condition. Upon their diagnosis, you should speak to the doctor about appropriate disease management and symptoms. With a clearer understanding of the symptoms, you can then identify them upon manifestation and be able to respond timely and properly.
You should also keep your parent informed about their condition and its details. Having clarity about their own condition helps them to adjust better. They will be more likely to adhere to treatment plans.
Ensure Their Safety
Senior living comes with various considerations and potential dangers. As your parents are no longer as active as they used to be and face a higher risk of injury, it is important you keep their environment safe- especially since some chronic illnesses may heighten such risks. You should ensure that all areas of their living environment are well-lit and install rails in the bathrooms. Remove all glass furniture and fixtures to prevent accidental breakage and subsequent injuries.
Chronic diseases can be unpredictable, so it is advisable that you have an emergency set of all your loved one’s medications and a first aid kit on standby at all times.
Keep Them Active
Exercise brings many health benefits, even for those with chronic diseases. Regular exercise strengthens the immune system and improves cardiovascular function and psychological health. You can sign them up for specialized health and wellness programs, or have them do home exercises. If your parent has reduced mobility, they can engage in a simple exercise like stretching. But to be sure, you should consult your parent’s doctor to verify the types of exercises that would be most appropriate for safe treatment of the disease.
Maintain Good Nutrition
Poor nutrition can make chronic diseases worse. However, medications, treatments, and even difficulty chewing and swallowing often cause a lack of interest in eating as well as poor appetite and digestion in older adults. If your loved one has been displaying these symptoms, consult a nutritionist for an assessment and a care plan. Certain chronic diseases require special diets, which greatly limits the variety of food that your parent can eat. You can speak to the nutritionist about possible adaptions to the care plan so that your parent can enjoy more types of food again, especially those they enjoy.