It’s no secret that our population is aging, with the average age in the U.S. rising each year.
With the passing of each birthday comes increasing risk of developing one or more chronic diseases.
Maybe your senior already has a chronic disease that you have both been managing. If so, you are not alone because current research from the Pew Research Center tells us that 45% of US adults are living with one or more chronic health conditions.
Chronic Health Diseases Affecting Aging Americans
One in four US adults (24%) has one condition and one in five adults (20%) has two or more chronic health conditions. These are among the most common.
- High blood pressure – 25%
- Lung disease – 13% have asthma, bronchitis, emphysema or other lung conditions
- Diabetes – 11%
- Heart disease – 7% have heart disease, heart failure or heart attack
- Cancer – 3%
- Lupus – 16% have lupus and other chronic problems
Does your senior loved one have one or more of these?
Seniors Living with Chronic Health Conditions Profile
Compared to the 45% of all adults who have chronic health conditions, the number jumps to 75% of adults over age 65. Here are some more facts and figures.
- 72% living with chronic diseases use the internet – this may sound like a lot but compared to adults who report having no chronic diseases it is not because 89% of them report using the internet. This is linked to those with chronic conditions having less education as a group and being older than the general population. Adjusting for age, income, education and ethnicity, the numbers still show that those living with a chronic condition are less likely to use the internet. In addition, the older adults are even less likely to use the internet.
- Those with a chronic condition who use the internet have been found to be more likely to gather information online about their medical problems and treatments; read online reviews of drugs and treatments; and spend time online watching or reading about someone else’s experience. The study shows that this group is serious about sharing their health status with others both off and online. They are more likely to seek advice, information and support.
- 31% of adults with chronic conditions have gone online to “diagnose” themselves or others for whom they care. They are more likely to take this information and discuss it with the medical team compared with those without chronic conditions. Some report that their diagnosis was confirmed but one in five say that the medical professional had a different opinion. 42% of these people with chronic medical problems are caregivers of others compared to 37% of those without chronic health conditions.
- People with chronic health conditions are more likely to track their health information including weight, diet, exercise, blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep, or headaches. 80% of those with two or more conditions, 70% of those with one condition, compared to 61% of those with no conditions. They take more formal notes and share their notes with others, including the healthcare team. 72% of them report that keeping notes had an impact on their health routine or caregiving of others.
- 26% of those with more than one condition have had a health emergency in the past year and many have been hospitalized especially compared to those with one condition (12%) or no conditions (4%).
What Caregivers Can Do To Support Seniors With Chronic Conditions
- If your senior loved one does not have the equipment or internet connection in their home that will allow them to get connected to seek out information and connect with others, get them connected! Help them set it up and show them how to use it! Grandchildren are especially helpful as IT troubleshooters to help them manage unfamiliar technology and devices. Set up online security so you will be comfortable with them surfing the net! Show them how to use search engines to find the data they seek and specific websites of interest. Help them learn to email info, share articles of interest or download files for printing. Because many report not even having a cell phone, get them a smartphone (your older model may be enough for them) to help them access health information, apps and emergency help!
- Become knowledgeable about the conditions and treatment to help share the experience and be able to advise them when needed. The statistics show that they want to share their experience and talk about it so give them the opportunity by keeping the lines of communication open.
- Be prepared for emergencies and understand that the likelihood of visiting the emergency room and hospital is real. Have all the information you will need handy such as medication information including dosages and times, advance directive information, doctor names and contacts, health history and family contact information. You may need to keep a bag ready for hospital visits with things you and other caregivers will need to pass the time waiting in the wings during treatments and procedures such as electronic devices with chargers, pen and paper, snacks, sweater, and other creature comforts.
- Help your senior track their health information. Look into some devices such as smartphone apps or organizing tools that can help the keep up with information such as blood pressure readings, medications or meal intake. There are a multitude of technology innovations including cloud storage options that can help them but you will need to get them started and set up. If you want to avoid technology, then interact and find out what they need. It may be as simple as a calendar or computer program that they can record information of importance. It needs to be in a format that can be shown to the medical team.
- Many of your seniors with chronic health conditions are caring for others themselves and trying to manage their own health. You can help lighten their load by arranging in home caregivers, doing some of their tasks, giving them (or arranging) respite, modifying the home to reduce caregiver stress and offer a sympathetic ear so you know what difficulties they may be facing and ways you can help out.
You can find ways to support your senior be in charge of their diseases instead of allowing their diseases to rule their lives.
If you have some tips or suggestions to share with us about what works for you and your senior to utilize the internet and technology to help manage chronic health conditions, we would love to hear your comments.