Keeping on top of a long term health condition at work

coping with long term illness

With such a huge number of people living with a long-term condition – and those figures set to rise – it stands to reason that many of those people will be in full or part time work.

Not only that, but many people will be balancing a health problem with ambitious career aspirations. However, statistics show that people with long-term conditions have a 59% employment rate compared with 77% for those without a condition1.

Adapting to the diagnosis of a long-term health condition or a change in an existing health problem can be daunting and frustrating, often meaning that patients need to take new medications, self-monitor their health (such as blood glucose monitoring) and make lifestyle changes such as dietary adjustments or stopping smoking. However, while conditions such as diabetes can be a serious, they can be managed effectively with good care and support.

So, what options are there for people with long term conditions who want to empower themselves and keep on top of their condition in the workplace?

Wendy Norton, Head of Health Coaching of new telephone health coaching service My Clinical Coach, gives her guidance here:

Make sure you’re on top of your meds

The impact of not taking your medicines can be serious, and if you run out of medication it could lead to an avoidable deterioration in your condition. This will then impact on your job if you are unable to work because of sickness or exhaustion.

If you have a complicated medication regime with different pills taken at different times, I would advise asking your pharmacist for a dosette box. Dosette boxes with alarms are perfect for a busy work schedule as the alarm will prompt the patient to take their medication. Some can have multiple alarm times programmed to prompt the user at different times e.g morning and evening doses.

Healthy diet & exercise

Knowing the foods that can be a problem for you is crucial. For those with COPD, certain foods increase the risk of bloating and gas which can make it more difficult to breathe. Apples, stone fruits and melons may be healthy but can cause bloating, so it is vital to know how your body works when starting your diet.

Working towards a deadline can be stressful and time consuming, however, it is important that you never skip breakfast as this can lead to over-eating later in the day which can ruin your food plan and cause your blood sugar levels to rise, which can be especially harmful to people with diabetes. I would recommend aiming for three servings per day of fibre fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.

Communication is key

Ideally, you should not normally be required to take annual leave for matters relating to your long-term condition, such as medical appointments, but you should discuss all the options with your employer. Healthcare professionals have found that people who are open about their health with their employer are able to manage their condition more effectively.

It is also important to talk to your employer if you are struggling with your workload as stress can dramatically affect your overall health and well-being, more so if you have a long-term condition. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones and increasing your heart and breathing rates., so this can be very damaging to patients with coronary heart disease, COPD and high blood pressure.

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