When you think about those with special needs, more often than not, you may be thinking about children with physical, emotional, developmental, or learning requirements in educational or social settings. Yet few will ever consider those with chronic illness as also having “special needs”.
The rise in various chronic illness in our society has escalated rapidly over the past 30 years. More and more people, in younger and younger populations, are being diagnosed with a chronic health challenge, as well as those in our aging population.
Some chronic issues range from metabolic dysregulation such as in diabetes or hypertension, to pain disorders such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis, to chronic fatigue, along with anxiety, depression, and mood swings. There are also many more people with food allergies and sensitivities in this day and age. The list of neurodegenerative disorders are also on the rise such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, and Huntington’s disease.
Of course there are many more chronic illnesses not mentioned, but no matter the diagnosis, each person once diagnosed may require adjustments in their daily life, professionally and socially.
If your loved one is dealing with a chronic illness, they would most certainly appreciate your consideration for them to manage this health status change in any way possible.
DIET If you have a loved one with diet restrictions, whether true allergy, sensitivity, or a metabolic issue such as diabetes with sugar management, or hypertension that may require sodium restriction, the best thing to do is ask them and then base meals, whether prepared at home or for a party, holiday, or restaurant choice, around their restrictions as best you can. Also some chronic illness have dysfunctions for swallowing and digestion. So the more you are aware and can accommodate for the restriction, you make the meal and experience more enjoyable for them.
PLAN Consider if an outing or activity is suited to the person’s energy level, safety restrictions, suitable time of day, travel distance, or if overwhelming for social anxiety, noise factor, or cognitive ability, and then plan accordingly.
UNDERSTANDING Be aware of your loved one’s physical ability, emotional comfort, energy level, and do your best to not become frustrated or angry if plans are cancelled the last minute.
STAY CONNECTED If it becomes harder and harder for your loved one to participate as they did in the past with social interaction in-person, then consider phone calls, video chats, or visiting them at their home if you do not live with them already. Knowing they are still important and have your understanding and support is beneficial for their overall well-being, even if eventual physical decline will progress.
When you are considerate of a loved one’s “special needs” when dealing with a chronic illness, it makes for a much better relationship dynamic. So don’t be reluctant to ask what they would prefer, and if you are the one with the chronic illness, don’t be reluctant to express what you feel you need.
Chronic illness requires “special needs” also, and I hope you are considerate towards those with these struggles, and accepting of accommodations if you are the one that needs them.
Wishing you health, hoping for “cures” for chronic illnesses, and living your best life.