Chronic diseases, more often than not, have been associated with deterioration and loss. This is especially true of the illnesses and disabilities that occur later in life. The concept of chronic illness is relatively new. Gains in medical knowledge, improved pharmaceuticals, and technological advances now mean that people live for years with conditions that would have led to an early demise not very long ago. Research today focuses on not only treating chronic conditions but on helping people adapt and maintain independent lifestyles.
A chronic illness is a disorder that persists for an extended period of time, and often affects the ability to function normally. A chronic illness will more than likely alter life as you now know it. Severe arthritis, emphysema, cirrhosis, diabetes and heart failure (or any other systems failures) are only a few of the chronic conditions that could derail your life. Having a chronic disease does not mean that you are going to die tomorrow. I can’t begin to tell you about how many people I have known living with multiple chronic conditions. The surprising thing was that many of them were well into their 90s. The human body is remarkably resilient, which means that it isn’t as easy to die as one might suppose. Having a chronic disease does not mean that your life is over.
Your doctor will tell you that the best way to keep chronic diseases at bay, or at least to postpone their onset, is to prevent them from occurring. This is very sage advice, but sometimes bad things happen to good people anyway. If symptoms of a chronic disease have already presented themselves, your goals will immediately change. Your new goals will focus on how to manage your symptoms and how to keep them from getting worse. It is hard to feel that you are in control when something like this happens and it requires a serious attitude adjustment, but it can be done:
- Become knowledgeable about your condition
- Be a participant in your care
- Take your medicine
- Seek and follow medical advice
- Work hard to maintain a normal lifestyle and seek a support group
Your chronic condition will not necessarily kill you, but diabetes, arthritis, a heart attack, a stroke, or any other insults to the body, are all signals that some changes are going to have to be made. It becomes even more apparent that lifestyle changes as well as continuing medical treatments are needed. You can and will live with chronic conditions.