Coping With Chronic Diseases (cont.)
So, what tips can doctors give for coping with conditions that are so potentially oppressive?
First, the patient needs to be educated regarding the unique features of his or her particular illness, including instructions for how best to take medications and engage in day-to-day activities, with the possible help of disabled-parking passes, braces, aides for daily living, etc. Additionally, there are some basic coping tips that I review with my patients.
In reviewing the following coping measures, keep in mind that each patient is different and these methods need to be adapted to fit each patient's needs, depending on his or her own particular background and health status.
The 4 Fs (Family, Friends, Faith, Forgetting)
Acknowledge your feelings, not only to yourself, but to others. Recognize that being upset about having a chronic illness is normal. Take time to ventilate these feelings and help those around you who care to understand what your feelings are and how they fluctuate. Start with your family members early on. Maintain intimacy with your spouse. Remember, family members are also affected by a chronic illness within the family unit. They can help if they are aware of the impact the illness is having on you.
Family members are often called upon to assist in the patient's daily living activities, such as administering medications, applying support devices, assisting in transportation, etc. They can best help if they understand how you are affected by the condition. Additionally, you will need to understand how your family members feel about your condition and how it is affecting them.
Enjoy your friends! That's what they're for. They also can come in very handy as a source of moral support during difficult periods. Sometimes, it can be very refreshing to review your home situation with an outsider in whom you can confide. Support comes in all kinds of packages, and you never know who's going to appreciate your condition.
Friends can occasionally be called upon to be caregivers and help in many other ways. Make new friends and consider interactive support groups. These might be found online or in your community. Access to further information and tips can come from national organizations, such as the Arthritis Foundation. These groups have as their primary goal helping people like you. They sometimes can even provide political support nationally!
This tip means different things for different people. Search your own faith for inspiration and direction. Reflect on who you are. Look to the leaders of your faith community for guidance and support. They have experience in relating to many people with chronic diseases and in offering helpful consolation.
Also, consider looking into what opportunities might exist within your local faith community for group support. Sometimes, these activities can open the doors to completely new ways to look at yourself and your situation.