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More than 25 percent of Americans are battling two or more chronic conditions, and the number skyrockets with age: two-thirds of Americans over age 65 and three-fourths over age 80 have multiple chronic diseases. Caring for a loved one with several diagnoses can be complicated. Marion Somers, Ph.D., geriatric expert and author of Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion’s 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One, shares five tips that can help simplify the process.
Define What’s Important. “As a caregiver, it’s up to you to monitor what’s being done and why,” says Somers. Talk with your loved one to find out his or her priorities, such as reducing pain or other symptoms, increasing functionality or prolonging life, then work with physicians and home health care staff to see if treatments can help meet those goals.
Structure the Day. Writing down your loved one’s daily routine “will help you keep track of details and get things under control,” says Somers. Start by listing activities of daily living, then create a medication schedule as well as any care specific to your loved one’s diseases. After that, list and prioritize appointments and tasks. (Geriatric Care Management services can provide guidance and help with organization.)
Keep Vitals in Check. Changes in vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates, temperature and weight can signal developing health problems. Monitoring vitals regularly can help you identify changes that need to be addressed before they become serious. VNSNY can help manage vital signs; our nurses can teach you to evaluate any changes, especially those that signal potential complications, and will ensure any changes are treated or communicated to your loved one’s doctor.
Determine the Chicken and the Egg. “Believe it or not, certain medications can actually cause chronic conditions,” says Somers. Dementia and loss of equilibrium are two common side effects to many medications. To figure out if treatment for one condition is contributing to another, keep careful track of all medications, including vitamins and over-the-counter remedies. “Ask your loved one’s doctor what’s prescribed and why, the dose, how often it should be taken and when—and what the side effects are,” says Somers. Be sure your loved one’s physicians know all the medications taken, and try to fill all prescriptions from one pharmacy so it’s easier for the pharmacist to spot any interactions and alert you of possible side effects.
Stay Positive. “It can be difficult to remain positive with multiple ailments,” says Somers, “but optimism is very important. It can lessen the burden of chronic pain and even reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease.” To keep spirits high, take daily breaks that distract from illness. Go for a walk, play with grandchildren, read a novel. “The activity itself isn’t important, it just needs to be something that lets you release pent-up negativity and experience calm, peaceful thoughts,” says Somers.
To find out VNSNY can help you care for a family member or loved one with multiple chronic conditions, please call 1-800-675-0391.