Coping with a Chronic Illness

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December 4, 2015 | Aptus Associates

One of the challenges of coping with an illness is that your patient will not only experience the symptoms associated with the illness, but will also experience the symptoms associated with depression, stress, or simply learning to adjust their lifestyle to the illness. A chronic illness can lead to significant life changes in your patient’s life that can be difficult to cope with.

Patients experience stress that continues to build and is ongoing. Unlike with temporary conditions where the symptoms of the condition are expected to relent, the chronic condition brings with it other concerns over what may happen to family members in the long term, especially if the disease is terminal or the thought of living with the symptoms for an extended period of time.

Have Your Patient Join Support Groups

Maintain a list of support groups that your patient can join for various illnesses. These groups will allow your patient to remain in contact with other individuals who understand what your patient is experiencing. Support groups remind patients that they are not experiencing the condition alone.

Recommend Individual Counseling

While support groups are more affordable than individual counseling, your patient may experience unique problems that are not universal to those suffering from the condition. For example, fears regarding the condition may cause your patient to experience insomnia, anxiety, and irritability. These stress-induced conditions are best treated through talk therapy or possibly psychiatric medications. Also, some symptoms that might be treated normally through medication, such as body pains, can be treated through stress relief techniques that your patient can be coached into using via therapy.

Encourage Stress-Relieving Activities

There are many things your patient can do to reduce the impact of stress from the illness, such as eating healthier foods and getting more exercise. In addition to the natural effects that these behaviors have on stress, they can also give your patient a greater sense of control over his or her life, which can help alleviate stress. If your patient adopts a problem-solving mindset, he or she will better be able to face problems that arise.

Keep Your Patient Informed

Educate your patient about the condition. Often, your patient may believe that the condition is more serious than it actually is. Explain to your patient how treatment can help restore a sense of normalcy to your patient’s life. Ask your patient to write down the symptoms that he or she experiences or problems and concerns that may occur. Then, you can later explain in detail what each symptom means so that your patient does not assume the worst and can better understand what’s happening to his or her body.

By establishing a dialog with your patient, you will be able to help him or her cope with the illness and get back to a normal life.