Long Term Illness
One of the things we’re all concerned about is the possibility of living with a long term illness. This possibility is equally scary from the point of view of living with the illness ourselves, or living with a loved one who has the long term illness.
There are many types of long term illness that spring to mind that may lead to us having to use the services of long term carers. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia / Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis etc can all see us requiring additional assistance to get by in daily life.
We’ve put together some additional information regarding living with or caring for someone who is living with a long term illness:
Types of long term illness – an outline of some of the more common long term illnesses and their long term care requirements
Long term dementia care – a condition that is much more openly discussed than it ever used to be. Read some of the issues involved here.
In terms of getting assistance for your long term illness care needs, there are quite a lot of options, as you can see through the rest of this section of the site.
The NHS has also put together a handy long term illness assessment calculator that you may find useful for determining the nature of the care you should receive and the likelihood of qualifying for some financial support, or other types of help that may be available.
We recommend you investigate all the options as early as possible, so you don’t end up missing out on things that you may be entitled to
Types of Long Term Illness
There are many different types of long term illness that may require specialist care assistance. Here’s an overview of some of the more common illnesses and the potential long term care issues involved:
Cancer – still one of the scariest words in the English language, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 people will suffer some form of cancer at some point in their lifetime. People living with cancer may require assistance with regular trips to the hospital for chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, there may also be complications with everyday activities such as eating, walking and breathing. So personal assistance is quite likely to be required, as well as being very welcome.
Diabetes – an increasingly common ailment, diabetes can severely affect your ability to go about your everyday life. There are many different types of diabetes, each of which carries its own complications. Generally, you’ll need to be careful of your diet and will need to keep up regular exercise. You may also require regular insulin, which can affect your ability to perform day to day tasks such as leaving the house without being prepared.
Heart disease – another increasingly common ailment for people as they get older. Over exertion can strain the heart muscle, so you may require specific adaptations throughout your house to try and prevent this. You may also be on regular medication or require regular trips to a medical specialist.
Dementia / Alzheimer’s – a much more common issue for people to consider than it used to be, with plenty of news stories and TV shows supporting the government’s initiatives to try and increase awareness of dementia among the public. Specialist equipment to orient the person living with dementia, tracking devices, adapted kitchen implements etc are all available to assist with care for people with dementia. See our page on long term dementia care for more info.
Osteoporosis – well known as a disease which affects women as they get older, it might surprise you to learn that many men suffer from osteoporosis, too. Commonly referred to as “brittle bones”, the damage caused by this disease can lead to infirmity and frailty, so household adaptations such as handrails and alarm buttons are often a valuable addition when it comes to long term care.
Arthritis – a very common condition with several variants that affect people in different ways. Mobility and movement are the things most likely to be affected, potentially requiring adaptations within the home, such as handrails and stairlifts. Mobility scooters are also often deemed to be desirable for people suffering impaired mobility as a result of arthritis.
Asthma – something that affects many people in the UK, often inhibiting their ability to breathe properly, especially when exerting themselves physically. People living with asthma may require specific alterations to their living environment to try and counteract the potential effects of the air they breathe, as well as adaptations to their home to try and reduce the amount of physical effort required in the course of everyday living.
Long Term Dementia Care
Very much in the news increasingly over the last 10 years or so, it seems that many of us are likely to end up living with dementia as we get older. (Though, of course, there are many examples of younger people who develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia).
Ensuring we are cared for effectively is one of the most pressing issues we face when we start to exhibit the signs of dementia. (Or if our loved ones develop these symptoms).
There are many organisations that can offer advice and assistance, with local authorities and hospital trusts providing many different forms of help to people in need. Here’s a few suggestions for what to look for when you’re interested in long term dementia care.
This is the classic symptom that most people will think of when they hear the words “dementia” or “Alzheimer’s”. For many generations, the deterioration of an older person’s memory was simply regarded as being ‘one of those things’. And, indeed, a certain amount of memory impairment is a very common symptom of getting older.
When memory loss is caused by dementia, however, the effects can be devastating for both the person living with the illness and the people around them. We’ve probably all wondered what it must be like to no longer be recognised by someone we love – an unfortunate event that many people have to live with every day.
Practical assistance for people suffering memory loss through dementia is available at all kinds of levels. Previously simple matters like knowing how to tie one’s shoelaces or remember what day it is, can start to cause problems with the everyday tasks of simply being alive.
So buying slip on shoes and a large display clock and calendar can help to offset some of these problems, allowing the person with dementia, as well as those around them, to get through their days more comfortably.
A very common issue for people with Alzheimer’s Disease, becoming confused about where you are or what you’re supposed to be doing can be very distressing.
Confusion can often strike when outside of a familiar environment, even if the area is somewhere you’ve been many times before, such as a local supermarket or town centre. Or even within your own home, it can become difficult to work out exactly where you should leave your coat, or why it is that you went into a particular room.
There are many stories of people living with dementia getting up in the middle of the night and leaving the house, because they had become confused about what time of day it was or what they were doing. Or they may simply not know which door to take to lead them to the bathroom.
Having a full time carer with you, either in your own home or a team of people in a residential home, can help lessen the potentially damaging effects of this sort of confusion, especially when travelling outside your own home.
Clear labels for places where everyday objects should be stored can also be beneficial, helping to direct you to the right place when you want to find something or put it away.
Lights that come on in the night time – eg nightlights or airline-style strip lights – can help to steer people in the right direction if they get up in the night, leading them successfully to the bathroom rather than the wardrobe or outside.
One of the biggest fears for people living with dementia is that they may become lost. Even in very familiar surroundings where they’ve been many times before, it is possible for confusion to set in and places that should be very well known appear to be new or strange.
Another factor here is that, with the potential memory loss for recent events, people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may believe that they still live in a home that is some distance from their current residence. So on their way back from a trip out, they may end up heading to an old address, such as from their childhood.
Having a full time carer, or living in a care home, can help prevent the main problems of getting lost.
Or you may consider having a GPS tracking device that the person with dementia wears at all times. (As eg a necklace or wristband). This can help carers, friends or relatives to keep a track of where the person has got to, so they can be alerted to any unusual behaviour.