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Planning Retirement Online

Guide to living with ill health in later life

Part 3 - Understanding your condition

Couple looking at information on the webDue to technology we now have much more access to information about our condition. Research shows that the use of coping strategies and self-help techniques can lead to a big survival advantage in cancer, heart disease and other conditions. But it’s easy to overdo the research. Staying on the computer into the wee small hours can be exhausting and lead to information overload, anxiety and confusion.

Guide to Ill Health - links

Finding out about your Condition

The NHS now puts a lot of emphasis on self care. The NHS Choices website has a symptom checker, health encyclopaedia, and information on more than 750 conditions and treatments. There are more than 20 detailed guides to long-term conditions with details of available treatments.

Charities and patient groups have websites which tell you the latest research and developments. Google your condition and you will find up to date information, NHS treatment options, research and support. Many also tell you about clinical trials and other new treatments.

Monitoring health

StethoscopeYou are the expert on you. Being proactive is important. Some people like to keep a diary noting changes or patterns to symptoms. At the same time you don’t want your condition to take over your life. Do make sure you get regular health checks for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, eye and dental examinations, cancer screening, annual flu jabs, and check your skin for changes in moles etc to ensure problems are caught early. We don’t want to turn you into a hypochondriac - simply to be vigilant!

The Expert Patients Programme (EPP)  is a self-management programme for people who are living with a chronic (long-term) condition. The aim is to support you by increasing your confidence, improving your quality of life, and helping you to manage your condition more effectively. The course covers the following topics:

  • dealing with pain and extreme tiredness
  • coping with feelings of depression
  • relaxation techniques and exercises
  • healthy eating
  • communicating with family.

There is a similar programme for carers called Looking after me.

Understanding the Impact on you

Living with illness or a long term condition can impact on our sense of self and emotional wellbeing. We can feel more anxious and vulnerable about our future, or concerned about the impact on our relatives. At times, with so much focus on our health we can start to feel defined by our condition. Telling people can be hard too. It is amazing how many intelligent caring people say and do very inappropriate things when you tell them you have a debilitating condition. On the other hand you can meet someone in a queue at the supermarket who leaves you feeling better about yourself and what you’re going through.

Living with ill-health can be an emotional journey. At various times you might feel disbelief, shock, anger, doubt and depression. At others you might get joy from the most surprising things, a baby’s cry, spring flowers, a kind thought. Be gentle with yourself. In researching this guide the one consistent piece of advice people with degenerative conditions gave was “You have to stay positive”.

Understanding its impact on others

Relationships very often change when one or both parties become ill. Some partners become overly protective while others may take on an almost parental role. Others may cope by continuing with life as if nothing has happened. There have to be adjustments and readjustments with family member. However, changing relationships don’t have to be deteriorating relationships. Many couples continue in long loving relationships through life’s challenges and the demands of caring. Families work through changing roles and responsibilities. The guide to Looking after Elderly Relatives covers this in more depth.

Click to continue to the next section on: 'Looking after yourself' Managing tests, treatments and pain

Disclaimer: As with any health related information, you should consult your medical practitioner or other healthcare professional to ensure any item mentioned here, or on sites we link to, is relevant for you. Although we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of information we present we make no warranty as to its accuracy and we have no control over and make no warranty over information presented on sites we link to.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Beth Campbell supported by members of the LaterLife team.  


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