About chronic disease and wellness
Did you know that energy field disturbance is a nursing diagnosis? Nurses recognise the way in which energy manifests has an impact on the health of our patients. Rising health care costs and increased care needs of the general population require us shift our health attention to wellness. It all starts with changing our health perceptions and beliefs.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian population is projected to increase to between 36 and 49 million by 2061. Twenty five percent of this group will be over the age of 65 and many of them will be living with one or more chronic diseases. Many more under the age of 65 will also have a chronic illness. This will not only affect their quality of life, but it will also put a tremendous burden on the health care system. The current health care system, based on the biomedical and illness paradigm, is not well enough equipped to deal with this future strain.
What is chronic disease?
A chronic health condition or chronic disease is defined as persisting for more than 3 months. Chronic diseases require long-term care, and can involve a range of health care providers. Not all chronic diseases are life threatening. However, chronic diseases can place significant impact on families, communities, workplaces and economies. For example, in Australia migraine and chronic headaches are responsible for vast amounts of economic productivity.
When a disease will persist for a lifetime and is life limiting, it is considered palliative. Think about the types of treatments for many of Australia’s health priorities. Here is the list of Australia’s health care priorities:
- Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions
- Diabetes mellitus
- Injury prevention
- Mental health
Every single one of these diseases is almost always a chronic or life limiting illness. If this is what we are concerned about right now and into the future, what can we do about the impact of managing these health conditions?
Are we able to heal chronic disease?
Although we might not be able to provide a cure for chronic diseases, wellness practices (such as mindfulness mediation!), can help improve functioning and quality of life. Guided imagery has even been used in cancer care with surprising results, with patients encouraged to visualise their immune system attacking the tumour cells. Further studies in specific population groups have shown that the utilisation of music therapy reduces doctor visits and health care costs, while improving overall wellbeing.
Therapies that have shown to have a positive impact on wellbeing can often be taught to patients and self managed. Mind-body therapies such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and mindfulness meditation are examples of these types of therapies.
So what is it about these ‘mind-body’ therapies that make wellness different from illness management? When the body is faced with a perceived threat, the sympathetic nervous system triggers the stress response, and a whole cascade of hormones flood the body. These therapies trigger the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system, which directly counteracts that stress response.
Healing the spirit and equipping the mind with the tools to manage disease is a positive step forward in chronic disease management. Wellness provides us a way to transcend chronic illness.
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Read more about Australia’s National Health Priorities at the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.