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Addressing Chronic Illness Care

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Some tips to make life easier for caregivers.

Posted September 19, 2011



Every day, nearly 66 million Americans provide care for a seriously ill, disabled or aging family member or friend. This can be a real challenge, particularly when the person you care for has been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Here are some tips that will make the process easier:

• Establish good communications with care providers. Be sure you and the person you care for understand the medical condition and its implications. With the patient’s permission, health professionals can have frank conversations with caregivers about treatment, including prescription drugs. Do not be afraid to seek a second opinion, if desired.

• Know your options. Some chronic conditions can be effectively managed and monitored at home, while some require lengthy stays in a hospital or managed care facility. Work with the health and medical teams to get a clear picture of the prognosis and care requirements. To the fullest extent possible, the person you help should make his or her own decisions about treatment options. If you’re authorized to make any of these decisions on their behalf, you have a special responsibility to ask questions about what outcomes can be expected and the type and amount of help that will be needed.

• Know where to turn for help. Created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) the Ask Medicare initiative offers numerous resources, including a newly updated website, to support caregivers who are taking care of a chronically ill loved one. The site, www.medicare.gov/caregivers, offers detailed information on several of the most common chronic illnesses, including cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. The site also provides tips on how to work with Medicare to receive preventive and treatment services and highlights the challenges in providing care to those with serious illnesses.

• Take care of yourself. Feelings of depression and frustration are common when a loved one is seriously ill, and many caregivers benefit from having a support network that includes people who are dealing with the same types of issues. Many hospitals and treatment facilities offer in-house counseling, and the Administration on Aging’s Elder Care Locator can offer information on local support groups as well. Groups such as the National Cancer Institute and American Diabetes Association also offer support services for caregivers. Visit the National Cancer Institute and go to the “cancer topics” and “coping with cancer” links. Visit the American Diabetes Association and go to the “Living with Diabetes” link for more information.

• Learn about financial support that may be available. Chronic illnesses can lead to significant expenses. Ask Medicare offers a wealth of information on programs that can help you save money on Medicare premiums, drugs and living expenses along with links to state and national programs that may offer financial assistance.

Article source: ARA Content.

 

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