Health and Wellness

Tips for Caring for Loved Ones With Long-Term Illnesses

Written by: Noah

There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken most of the attention in the world of health and wellness. We might be in a new year, but in 2020, COVID-19 was the main focus, and that doesn’t show any signs of changing soon.

But, even during a pandemic, there are still other long-term illnesses that haven’t been getting as much attention. COVID-19 hasn’t caused those illnesses to go away or magically become “better.” The people dealing with those illnesses still need help, and they need to be surrounded by the support of loved ones who can care for them.

While self-care is important for those with long-term illnesses, it’s not always possible for those individuals to take care of themselves the way they need to. Unfortunately, stress can make their symptoms even worse. So, what can you do to care for your loved ones with long-term illnesses, even during these uncertain times?

Mental Health Conditions

Mental health conditions can often be overlooked, even when they have been officially diagnosed. Unfortunately, they can be debilitating for those dealing with them regularly. What’s worse? Many mental health problems are exacerbated by stress, including anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder/bipolar depression. The stress, isolation, and fear of the last year have undoubtedly contributed to an uptick in mental health conditions across the globe. As such, those dealing with conditions like depression have had to deal with symptoms like:

  • Changes in eating/sleeping habits
  • Fatigue
  • Thoughts of hopelessness
  • Isolating from loved ones

What can you do? For starters, be present. Learn your loved one’s triggers when it comes to their anxiety or depression and try to eliminate them as much as possible. Help them to manage their stress levels by making sure they stay active, get enough sleep, and find time each day to do something they enjoy. If you notice their condition(s) getting worse, it can also benefit them to suggest talking to a professional.

Disabilities

Those with disabilities may have struggled with socioeconomic resources and support even before the pandemic. But, now with so much focus on COVID-19, disabled adults may actually experience medical discrimination. The National Disability Institute found in a 2020 survey that 60% of disabled adults reported being “very concerned” about receiving access to care or necessary treatments.

One of the best things you can do to support a loved one with a disability is to be informed. Do your research on their rights, and make sure they’re getting the attention they deserve.

On top of that, you can make more of an everyday impact by helping them with their routine. Some disabilities can be more difficult to manage than others. So, something as simple as getting groceries or doing laundry for your loved one can make a big difference and can help to reduce their stress levels and allow them to feel calm for a moment, even during a period of unrest.

Chronic Illnesses

Chronic illnesses, by definition, are conditions that last longer than three months. Some people live with them for a lifetime, while others fully recover. Some chronic conditions can be treated. For others, you can only manage the symptoms.

In this time of medical attention going elsewhere, loved ones with chronic illnesses will rely more than ever on family and friends, especially those that live with them. The individual care someone with a long-term illness needs will vary. For example, even if someone you love has a relatively minor condition, like GERD, they may need help preparing the right foods for their condition, or encouragement to make the best life choices for their condition. Someone with cancer, dementia, or arthritis might need more hands-on care throughout each day.

No matter the condition, however, you can help a loved one with a chronic illness by:

  • Showing compassion
  • Being emotionally supportive
  • Showing interest in their recovery journey
  • Offering them validation

In a time where it might feel like many other healthcare issues have gone on the backburner, those dealing with long-term illnesses need more support than ever. If someone you love has an illness, keep these general ideas in mind to help them get through each day, and recognize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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