Taking Control of Your Chronic Condition

Some people have a disease or injury that affects their ability to perform certain physical tasks. Others suffer from a condition such as depression that makes it harder to manage their emotions. If you have a long-term health concern, it’s important to take control of your condition. This series will show you how to care and advocate for yourself to get the most out of life and work.

Working with health care providers

Working closely with good health care providers will help you take control of your condition and maintain your performance at work.

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Think of yourself as part of a team. Your team may include your GP, specialists in your condition and other professionals, such as a dietician, social worker, mental health therapist, dialysis technician, audiologist, speech, physical, or occupational therapist, some family members and others. Try to keep the team up-to-date on changes in your condition.

Find appointment times that work best with your job schedule. Ask your health care providers if you can arrange appointments before or after work, or on weekends. Try to arrange appointments well in advance. Ask for an average wait time.

Make the most of medical appointments. Prepare for appointments by making a list of any concerns you want to raise. Keep a notebook and write down the findings of the exam and the recommendations. This will help you to share findings with others. Bring a list of all the medications you are taking, including those prescribed by other doctors. Be sure to also include over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and vitamins. During appointments, ask questions and find out what you need to do after you leave the office. Ask the doctor to use your notebook to write down instructions you might forget. Keeping one notebook for all medical appointment notes will help over time. You can also keep a daily journal. Record appointments, medication schedule, foods eaten, symptoms and their intensity, exercise and anything else you think might be useful. This information can help you and your medical team manage your illness more effectively.

Consider taking a friend or family member with you to ask other questions or to write down information for you.

Ask for copies of medical records as you go along. For example, ask for a printed copy of recent test results or scans, such as from an MRI or a blood test. Also ask for copies of letters from various specialists. By obtaining records as you go along, you will accumulate your own set of medical records that you can take to appointments. This is especially helpful if you change or add doctors or if you move out of the area.

Tell your GP if you are considering or are already seeing an alternative treatment practitioner, such as a chiropractor or an acupuncturist. Also let them know if you are taking an herbal remedy or nutritional supplements. Some products may interfere with medications. Speak up if you want a second opinion or would like to see a specialist.

Ask for online references about your disease. Your health care provider may know of excellent local or internet resources that will provide you with more information. So much online information is available for chronic conditions that getting recommendations can provide a helpful starting point in your learning process.

Ask for a referral to a social worker to help you with case management. Some teams of medical providers have a social services department that can provide assistance with transportation, home alterations, financial resources, or respite care for your children.

Have a plan for your care. Work with your health care providers to develop a plan that may include getting check-ups, taking medications or vitamins, and following a specific diet or exercise routine. Speak up if you have trouble sticking to the plan or if you are receiving mixed messages from multiple health care providers. Your doctor may make adjustments that will make the plan easier to follow. For example, you may be able to gradually reduce the dosage of a medicine which has unpleasant side effects.

Staying strong emotionally

Maintaining your physical and emotional strength will be easier to do if you have support from your family, friends and others.

Make your family and friends part of your health care team. Consider starting a blog for family and close friends. A blog is one way for you to express concern, suggest ways for others to show support, describe what you’re going through and update people on your treatment or medical condition. Share your feelings not just about your challenges but about the happiness you experience when you make progress or have an especially good day.

Continue to monitor other areas of your health. Arrange annual check-ups with your GP so that they can monitor your progress and coordinate your care. Make sure your immunisations and health screening checks are up-to-date. If your GP recommends that you have an annual flu shot, arrange it in advance.

Join a local or national organisation related to your condition. Search online to find these groups. These organisations may provide many helpful resources—research, names of contacts, coping strategies and meetings where you can talk with others who are coping with a chronic condition or illness.

Look into local or online support groups. You can get both practical advice and emotional support from meeting regularly with a small group of people who have your condition. Ask an organisation devoted to your condition how to find a support group in your community. Or join an online support group if you cannot attend a regular meeting.

Find out about community resources. Look into free or low-cost health, fitness and nutrition programmes at local adult education centres. Find out if you can get free or reduced-cost home-delivered meals, housekeeping services, transportation, or help with errands from a volunteer group.

Stay active. Staying active will help you keep your condition from becoming the focus of your life. It will also help you stay connected to the people who can provide the support you need to enjoy life. Over time, you may also discover ways to make your routines easier to maintain. Ask family or friends to exercise with you, keeping you accountable so that you don’t suffer the physical effects of inactivity or become depressed from what you cannot do due to your chronic illness.

Keep learning about your condition. New treatments may someday make it possible for you to do much more than you can imagine now.

While Chronic Conditions may not be a problem for someone in their 20’s or early 30’s, these types of illnesses become increasingly more common as you age. As such, younger people considering a global health insurance plan often overlook this type of protection as it may be seen as an unnecessary expense. However, in the event that you do develop a chronic medical condition you need to know that your policy will be able to provide you with the protection you need.

Chronic Conditions can take a heavy toll on people’s health, as well as on their finances. If you do have a pre-existing condition, getting the right health insurance plan can be very difficult sometimes. Comparing medical insurance options is a great first step in finding the right plan. Many insurance companies in the UAE now provide cover for pre-existing & chronic conditions, with a waiting period. However, there are no such limitations with all of HanseMerkur’s health insurance plans.

Apart from being protected with a health plan, also remember to always take good care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, get enough sleep and follow the exercise programme your doctor advises. You may also need to take some extra steps when you have a chronic condition. But don’t neglect the basics. They are the building blocks of good health. If you manage your everyday health, you’ll be taking a big step toward managing your chronic condition.

Bottom line: When coping with a chronic illness, worry less about what you can’t change and focus on what you can. Eventually, you may discover you’re living a healthier life than ever before.

Source: LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell.