Chronic illness can have a profound effect on the health and quality of life of the older people, not to mention the financial strain that comes with it. But even so, we have to ensure that they are still in a position to have the best quality of life possible.
Research conducted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) established that approximately 80% of the older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 77% have at least two. So, if it’s any consolation, you are not alone.
There are things you can do to support the sick elder. In some cases, you can even get them on a free EEOICPA/RECA home healthcare service, which will help lift the financial burden from the family. Organizations like UEW Healthcare are committed to assisting individuals whose conditions are as a result of exposure to beryllium, radiation, or silica while working at a covered Department of Energy facility. Take time to check out these options to see if your elderly family member is eligible.
Here are some ways to support older family members with chronic conditions:
Check-in: The truth of the matter is most people who are struggling with chronic conditions develop a habit of not communicating or keeping in touch because their lives have changed and that they don’t know how to relate anymore. Reaching out, and checking how they are doing is the best way to show you care – even when they suck at calling, texting, chatting and emailing. Checking in is a great way to make them feel cared for and supported.
Listen: Instead of trying to offer unsolicited advice, recommend new cures or judge how they are coping with the condition when they try to talk to you, listen. Listen and don’t try to relate by using your life examples in a manner that marginalizes their current challenge, pain or victory.
Learn about the illness: You don’t have to be a doctor to know this – a simple Google search can help give you a better understanding of your loved one’s medical diagnosis. Knowing this is a practical support tip, as it informs you about how typical symptoms present, triggers flares, and warning signs of complications. The intention is not for you to become a specialist, but to familiarize yourself with the condition to better support them.
Emotional intelligence: Living with a chronic disease is more of like an emotional rollercoaster – there are lows and highs and everything in between. If you notice that your loved one is somewhat down, don’t subscribe to their pity party, instead, try to encourage them. Help them to eliminate any negative self-talk and practice positivity. A little boost of encouragement will go a long way than pity or criticism.
Acceptance and change: Don’t try to compare who the person was and what they are now – this only shows you are disappointed with the person they’ve become. Being accepting of who they are now, and loving them for that is enough support.