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Self-Care Measures with a Chronic Disease

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What are self-care measures?

Self-care measures are steps you can take to help cope with symptoms of a chronic disease, such as arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes. Self-care measures can be used in addition to your healthcare provider's treatment and care for your disease.

What changes should I expect when I have a chronic disease?

With a chronic disease, your symptoms may make it hard for you to do your normal daily activities. You also may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain: Many chronic diseases cause pain. This pain may be so bad that you have trouble doing your normal daily activities. Pain also may make it hard for you to sleep at night.
  • Fatigue: You may feel tired often or get tired easily.
  • Mood: You are at a higher risk of a mood disorder, such as depression, if you have a chronic disease.
  • Changes in mobility: Some chronic diseases, such as arthritis, can make it more difficult for you to get around.

What lifestyle changes should I make when I have a chronic disease?

The following lifestyle changes may help you manage your symptoms and feel better:

  • Follow your healthcare provider's directions: Take all medicine as directed. Make sure you know how to safely use any medical devices, such as wheelchairs or oxygen tanks.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Several small meals throughout the day may help decrease fatigue and help you get plenty of nutrition.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Get plenty of exercise: Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise can help decrease your symptoms and improve your mood and health.
  • Limit alcohol: Alcohol may increase your symptoms. Depending on your illness, your healthcare provider may recommend that you avoid alcohol.
  • Do not smoke: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking may make symptoms of your chronic disease worse. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.

What tools can I use to help care for myself?

You may need devices to help make your daily life easier. Feeding yourself may be easier if you use forks, knives, and spoons with bigger handles. Reaching devices may help you pick up things so that you do not have to bend over or stretch. Tools such as dressing sticks, shoehorns with long handles, and button hooks help you dress yourself. A sponge with a long handle may help you wash yourself. You may need a special seat for your shower or a shower that is designed for a wheelchair. You may need a lift or other machine to help you move from your bed or chair. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these devices.

What types of therapy may help me?

Therapy may help you adapt to changes caused by your disease, symptoms, and treatment. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your medicine makes you feel sick.
  • You have new symptoms.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • Your pain medicine does not seem to be working.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You suddenly feel weak or numb.
  • You suddenly cannot move an arm or leg.
  • You have vision loss.
  • You feel like hurting yourself on purpose.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.