Chronic illness has been deemed the crisis of the century by the World Health Organization. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that nearly half of adults have one or more chronic conditions, and a quarter of adults have two or more chronic health conditions. These conditions include diabetes, stroke, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Obesity is another chronic condition that gives rise to some of the above conditions. Chronic health problems can make life unbearable for many without a support system, which can come from the patient’s community as well as healthcare organizations.
How can patients be helped at home?
People who suffer from the above chronic conditions need help from their family members and the community. However, well-meaning relatives and friends can do just the opposite if they are unclear on how to help patients deal with their conditions. While friends and family may want to help their loved one overcome challenges associated with the condition, they can fall short because their comments or actions may come in the form of ableism, disablism or toxic positivity.
Ableism involves limiting the potential of the person. Often, those guilty of ableism will say things like, “You’re too young for that” or “You’re sick because you’re not positive enough.” These comments do not help the individual get through their health condition. Alternatively, disablism involves promoting values that promote unequal treatment of others.
Toxic positivity is another behavior that interferes with a friend or a family’s ability to help someone with a chronic condition. Well-meaning caregivers will say things such as “Everything happens for a reason” or “Everything will work out in the end.” However, a person suffering from a debilitating, painful condition needs compassion and empathy rather than empty platitudes.
A caregiver assisting someone with a chronic condition can be most helpful when they provide emotional and physical support. For example, instead of dispensing advice on handling a healthcare problem, the caregiver should purchase the items the individual needs. Moreover, a caregiver is most helpful when they research the condition independently. In many ways, this can help the person with some of the issues associated with the disease. Moreover, when healthcare challenges arise, the family member can take steps to be more proactive in assisting the professional.
How does this translate to the healthcare setting?
Physicians and other clinicians assist patients with chronic health conditions by providing patient-centered care in the healthcare setting. This type of care exhibits compassion and empathy by keeping in mind the patient’s personal preferences and values and when guiding decisions regarding a patient’s needs. Through this approach, the healthcare professionals will draw in the patient’s family members as a part of the decision-making process regarding clinical conditions. However, healthcare organizations engage in other patient-centered care practices, such as those listed below.
Healthcare organizations typically engage in coordinated care as a part of patient-centered care that promotes helping someone with a chronic condition. Research reflects that patients appreciate when healthcare providers simplify the process of being seen by multiple physicians. Chronic health conditions go hand in hand with a patient having complex needs, which often culminates in fragmented care and can determine whether the patient receives follow-up care.
Moreover, a coordinated care system reduces the likelihood of the patient dealing with unnecessary hassles. Poor communication due to fragmented care results in medical errors, increased hospital readmissions and poor health outcomes. The continuity that occurs when healthcare organizations try to provide coordinated care goes a long way in eliminating the above scenarios to helping a patient manage a chronic healthcare condition.
Supporting a patient’s communication, education and information needs
Patient-centered care that helps those with chronic conditions emphasizes giving patients the information they need to make good decisions. Furthermore, this includes educating them about the condition and resources that might help them manage it. Depending on the severity of the condition, some patients might want to have the physician directly communicate this information or educational materials to them. Alternatively, they might prefer a family member take this information.
Making care more accessible
Finally, healthcare organizations can make care more accessible to patients dealing with chronic conditions. This means providing patient advocates, from nurses to physicians; locating hospitals, clinicians and centers within a reasonable distance of the patient; and making it easy to schedule appointments. Other things patient-centered organizations do to advocate for the patient is giving information to the patient regarding specialists and referrals.
How can you become a part of this community?
Whether you are a college student thinking about a lifelong career or a mid-career professional already working in healthcare looking to advance, the healthcare field provides diverse opportunities for individuals to become healthcare providers. Furthermore, you do not have to put your current job on hold to attend a program that will prepare you to work with patients with chronic conditions.
For instance, online programs throughout the country provide professionals with a way to get training and a degree. Baylor University’s online nursing program offers a DNP AGACNP that prepares nursing professionals for work in any patient-centered healthcare environment. Furthermore, this and other programs allow students to take classes remotely, giving them the power to learn when it is best for them.
Ultimately, the best way to assist a patient with a chronic condition is through an individualized, multifaceted approach. This care involves treating the patient as a human, considering their condition within the context of their lives. Other factors critical to the context of their lives are the community (friends and family members), their emotional state, beliefs and preferences.
Facing chronic conditions every day is challenging for these patients. However, between friends and family and the healthcare industry, patients with these conditions are surrounded by a community that provides a layer of support in helping them deal with the stresses and the pain associated with managing their condition. This support can offer patients the proper care at the right time, which takes place inside and outside the traditional healthcare setting.