What does a chronic disease mean?

Diabetes, asthma, etc., living with a chronic disease daily is far from easy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the term “chronic disease” refers to a long-term condition that changes over time. It is not always easy to recognize a person with a chronic illness. Yet, this type of disease is responsible for 17 million deaths worldwide each year. In France, 15 million people (approximately 20% of the population) are thought to have a chronic disease compared with 30% of the population in Canada. More or less severe and disabling as the case may be, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, etc.

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Diabetes: Accepting the disease

The announcement of chronic disease is overwhelming. In cases where the patient does not have a family history and does not expect this type of diagnosis, it may be more so. A phase of revolt and incomprehension often follows the announcement of the disease and can last several months. Some conditions require consultation with a psychologist since it is essential that the patient accepts his illness. Then it will be about learning to live with it. This means changing your lifestyle: healthy eating, the need for physical activity, taking medication, etc. The physician who diagnoses chronic illness plays a fundamental role in directing the patient and presenting solutions to the patient while making him understand that he will not be able to cure his disease permanently.

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Diabetes: Everyday life with a chronic illness

Living with a chronic disease daily is far from clear. Patients often state that they learn to “live with” their pathology and not to “live it well.” Personal development is essential to continue living as normally as possible. The patient is active and contributes to his treatment. After the shock that follows the announcement of the chronic disease, it is necessary to acquire skills to reorganize it. The first thing to do is to understand the illness. Then, the patient must learn to self-manage and be able to take charge in the absence of the caregiver. It will often be necessary for the patient to organize himself according to his illness without letting him take control over his life.

  • Impact on social life

Beyond physical pain, people with chronic illness can also be victims of moral and social suffering. Most of the time, it is latent suffering that is not always evident in the eyes of family and friends. The patients are led to find a meaning to their pathology: we speak of real teaching since they must learn to deal with it. We must admit that we are not in good health but continue to live as normally as possible so as not to alter “our taste for life.” Within the family and friends, it will be necessary to “dare” to show his illness and to affirm it. The close entourage plays a vital role in the acceptance of the disease and in the way the patient perceives himself: they must participate in the treatment of chronic disease.

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  • The impact on working life

The professional environment is often a source of additional tension for people with a chronic pathological condition. Pain, fatigue, or frequent drug intake can be a discomfort to the patient who often refuses to be seen as “sick.” In addition to having to reconcile professional life with treatment or rehabilitation, the patient sometimes has to look condescending from his colleagues and sometimes has to deal with daily pressure coming from his hierarchy. In all cases, it is advisable to have as much transparency as possible: communication will be decisive. Some companies may offer part-time jobs or adapt to the employee’s working time and duties if his / her illness prevents him/her from performing specific tasks (e.g., carrying heavy loads). In some cases, sick leave remains the only solution, which will force the patient to reorganize his life.

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  • The impact on intimate life

Enhanced sexuality would be synonymous with good health and would ensure a good quality of life. In the case of chronic illness, sexual functions are not altered. But the pain, depression, or discouragement that sometimes surrounds the pathology can be at the origin of a loss of desire and sexual satisfaction.

Communication within the couple is paramount: talking to one’s partner about what one feels (pain, self-disgust, etc.) is essential to avoid sexual frustration. It is advisable to have sex at a fixed time of the day when the pain has subsided and when you feel most desirable. The tenderness within the couple apart from sexual relations will be essential to reconnect with a fulfilled sexuality. Sexuality must not rhyme with “performance,” but with self-discovery, the other, and mutual fulfillment.

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