Monitoring chronic diseases at home

There are a variety of conditions that can either be controlled or at least, be managed to slow the disease progression. These diseases include diabetes, hypertension or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and many more. It does not matter what chronic illness you have; you will most likely do the bulk of managing it, from home.

Keeping track of the progression of the illness, and your overall health, is of vital importance. Ignoring symptoms or deficits may ultimately keep you from getting help that can possibly extend or even save your life.

Why some ignore their symptoms

Some illnesses come with a stigma, and patients may feel ashamed. Lifestyle factors could contribute to one having diabetes or hypertension. The patient may feel ashamed for living an unhealthy lifestyle. With other conditions, such as muscle atrophy or ALS, a patient that may have been fit and strong in their prime, will now be ashamed of their weakness and not want to admit they need help.

It is important to recognise these feelings. As the patient, you will have to deal with these feelings and make a decision regarding your health and wellness going forward. As a family member of the patient, you may need to step into a supportive role. This means that you will have to help them maintain a healthier lifestyle, and support them when they feel overwhelmed, without making them feel like they are a burden.

What to look for and how

Diabetics and those with hypertension can do a quick test with their home devices, to monitor their glucose level or blood pressure. However, certain symptoms may make it harder to monitor the progression of illness. Things like pain, sensation and strength is subjective, and you may not accurately remember what you felt or were able to do the previous day.

A diabetic may lose sensation in their feet and not notice that they have a wound after bumping their toe. Someone with hypertension may have had a migraine, and not notice that they are also experiencing a headache due to elevated blood pressure. An ALS patient may have been able to hold their cup and drink from it, but did not realise that they now need to use two hands, where they previously only needed one.

Keep track by taking note of all possible risks and symptoms of your condition, as well as your pain levels and mood. Keep a food diary, and write down how much exercise you do each week, what you are doing and for how long. Inspect your body regularly in a mirror to look and feel for any rashes, wounds or lumps.

Always use your medication as directed and do not deviate from your healthcare plan. If you feel the need to change anything, speak to your doctor or pharmacist first.

Something happened, now what?

If there is any decline in your overall wellness, or your symptoms have progressed, speak to your healthcare provider immediately. It is often just a matter of adjusting your treatment plan. Acting sooner rather than later, will minimise your risks.

Untreated wounds in diabetics may lead to a worst-case scenario of amputation. Ignoring your hypertension could lead to a heart attack or a stroke. These things are serious but could be prevented if taken care of, as soon as you notice the problem.

You can visit our clinic Sisters for advice or consult our pharmacists regarding your medications. They will refer you to your doctor if needed.

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