Brooke Fryer

Chronic diseases may affect any age group, at any time, but as we grow older the chances of getting a chronic disease increases. There are specialised services available to help people suffering from chronic diseases, but in order to keep the disease in check day-to-day, self-management is vital.

A chronic disease is categorised as an on-going disease which lasts more than three months. These diseases generally are not completely curable and, in most cases, the disease gets worse with time.

According to the Australian Government’s, My Aged Care, the most common types of chronic diseases in Australia are, asthma, arthritis, cancer and chronic kidney disease. Each chronic disease has support and information programs, contact your local GP for information on these.

Kristen Hall, an on-going sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis says that she has tried just about everything to manage the disease, but as time goes on, it only seems to get worse.

“Since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2003, I’ve tried Methotrexate, Plaquenil, Arava tablets, pain killers, anti-inflammatories and anti-inflammatory ointments. I’ve found that the best thing for me is massages, rest and sticking to my medication,” says Kristen.

“Medication doesn’t necessarily make the pain bearable, it just slows down the process of the arthritis getting worse.”

The Medical Journal of Australia says that self-management is the key to chronic disease care, and if self- management is implemented correctly, the results are effective. My Aged Care says that a vital part to this management is being educated, understanding what is being said by the doctor, asking your own questions as well as managing emotions that may arise from the disease.

“Rest, avoiding heavy lifting and exercising, but also knowing when enough is enough has seen most effective through my years of rheumatoid arthritis,” says Kristen.

In Australia, there are many Medicare benefits and Allied health treatments, including services to help maintain chronic disease. The Medicare Benefits Schedule website provides a list of services which are subsidised by the Australian Government.

Allied health services include exercise physiology, psychology, physiotherapy and osteopathy. More information can be found at any local GP and the website below.