Living with Illness. Living with the Problem

Chronic illnesses are any health condition with long-lasting effects, generally those lasting more than three months. They are the leading cause of death in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Chronic illnesses account for about 70 percent of the deaths in the United States. Senior citizens have a 90 percent chance of having a chronic illness and a 77 percent chance of having two chronic conditions. Living with a chronic illness is easier when the patient follows some basic steps.

Doctor Selection

The patients’ relationship with their physicians is especially important in cases of chronic illness. These patients must trust their doctors completely in order to be completely honest with them. Patients with a chronic illness may need to look for another physician to find one they trust.

Support Network

A social support network is a group of close friends who can keep a patient with chronic illness from feeling isolated. Members of the support network need to be capable of accepting the truth about a patient’s condition, especially when the news is bad. Patients typically should avoid providing too much negative information to people outside their support network. These people will often have strong emotional reactions to this news, which can take energy away from the patient.

Patients with a chronic illness should accept offers of help from members of their support network. This will allow both parties to feel happy about the patient receiving support. It is especially important for these patients to be accompanied on a doctor visit. Patients often feel overwhelmed when visiting a doctor and a friend can be invaluable for recording important information from the doctor.

Health Protection

A healthy lifestyle is especially important for patients with a chronic illness. This includes getting proper nutrition, good exercise and plenty of sleep. These patients must also learn to recognize when they need to take a break from their daily activities. These signs can include a loss of concentration, muscular tension and irritability. Patients with chronic illness must learn to respect their limits to avoid a relapse in their condition.

New Standards

Patients with a chronic illness must set new standards that reflect changes in their condition. This step is essential for these patients to maintain their self-esteem. For example, a 40-hour workweek may no longer be a realistic standard for someone with a chronic illness. It is essential that these patients not define themselves by the standards they were able to meet when they were completely healthy. Adopting reasonable standards typically requires a good of courage.


Setting specific goals is essential for someone with a chronic illness. Goals help these people maintain their spirit by achieving a sense of accomplishment, even for small goals. Patients may still be able to meet their ultimate goals by changing the method of achieving them. For example, a woman with a chronic illness may still be able to have a child even though it may require an extended hospital before the birth.

This is part one in a three-part series on Living with Illness.

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