Millions of people are diagnosed every year with a chronic disease. Billions are living with one. How do you find a way to make positive changes in your life after such a diagnosis, to live a life that is as full as possible, with the highest level of independence and comfort as possible?
It\’s important to do some planning, make changes in your lifestyle, and take charge of your health by doing the following:

  • Empower Yourself: Do research on your condition and educate yourself. Learn about the condition, treatment options and how to make the most of your treatment, so it will be successful. Learn about new treatments and their efficacy.
  • Be Proactive : Do this by using the information you have to take responsibility and affect your health in a positive direction.
  • Choose the Right Doctor: Find a physician that is trained in the treatment of your specific condition. Ask medical professionals and friends for recommendations. Check on the physician\’s training, background and track record. Find out if they are accessible to you.
  • Get the Most Out of Medical Appointments: Write down a list of questions as they come to you between visits. Take your list of questions and concerns to your appointment. Keep a list of symptoms and advise your physician of any changes in your status. Be sure you understand recommendations by repeating them to the physician and clarifying, if needed. Take someone to the appointment with you, if you feel you need help with this.
  • Follow Medical Guidance: If your physician makes recommendations for lifestyle changes, make those changes. If you are prescribed medications, be sure you understand the instructions to be sure you take them correctly. Adhering to physician recommendations will only benefit you in the long run.
  • Involve Family Members and Caregivers: Be sure that those in your support system are aware of what your needs are and how they can support you in making those lifestyle changes. This will help you be more successful in your attempts to make the needed changes. You can also help everyone involved by educating your family about your condition, and what they can expect. If you feel it\’s appropriate, have one of them go with you to your next appointment to ask questions of the doctor.
  • Have an Emergency Plan in Effect: Discuss this information with your doctor. Are there symptoms you should watch for, and what should you do if they appear? What is considered an emergency and when should you call 911? When should you call the doctor\’s office to update them, if a symptom arises? Do you have a plan in place of whom to call in your support network and when?
  • Join a Support Group: Support groups of all types are available in most areas for those with a chronic condition, as well as for their caregivers. This is a great way to obtain support when you feel overwhelmed and also a good place for education and information on your condition. You will have support from others who also have the same condition or similar challenges as you. Find out about what\’s available in your area, visit a group, and decide which one will be the best source of support for you.

By being proactive, you can stay on top of your condition as much as possible and make positive changes in your lifestyle. Communication with medical professionals involved in your care, as well as with your family and caregiver network, will also affect outcomes in a positive way. In doing this, you will have the most successful treatment outcomes, and have the highest level of independence and quality of life as possible.

Ellen Platt received her Master\’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Pittsburgh and is both a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Certified, Professional Geriatric Care Manager. Ms. Platt has been with Maturity Concepts since 2007, working primarily with older adults and their adult children, focusing on issues relating to loss of independence and exploring ways to enhance the quality of life for the clients she serves. She will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to assess safety, independence and comfort, and work with the senior and family to create an appropriate plan of care.