Self-care is a lifelong habit and culture. It is the action individuals take for themselves and their families to stay healthy and take care of minor and long term conditions, based on their knowledge and the information available and working in collaboration with health and social care professionals where necessary.
Self care involves a spectrum of care including:
Making healthy lifestyle choices such as physical activity and healthy eating which allow the maintenance of good health and prevention of ill-health
Making effective use of medicines and health care interventions;
Self-diagnosis which involves being able to make a risk assessment of symptoms, screening and assessing these, if necessary, in partnership with a healthcare professional who need not be a doctor
Self-treatment involving responsible use of medication (OTC and prescription)
Self-monitoring involves keeping a check on signs and symptoms of flare ups and deterioration or improvement in a health condition
Self-management which includes being able to handle the symptoms of disease either alone or in partnership with health and social care professionals or other people with the same health condition
Self-care for healthy living
Staying healthy is important for everyone, even if patients are living with a long-term condition. This means eating healthily, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and drinking in moderation.
Self-care for common conditions
Did you know that one in five GP visits are for common conditions, such as backache, headache or cough?
For most people, they are not serious health problem – patients just want to know how to relieve it and want a treatment that acts fast. They also want to know how long you’re going to suffer or what they should do if the symptoms change.
The good news is that self-care can help patients manage most of these problems. It may mean they don’t have to spend time waiting to see the GP but can get on and start tackling their symptoms. Self-care for common conditions can also help free up some of the GP’s time, making it easier to get an appointment when patients have a more serious condition.
Find out more about self-care for common conditions
The Self Care Forum has produced Factsheets to help you take care of the most common ailments. These provide useful facts about common conditions, what patients can expect to happen, how to help themselves, when they should see your GP and where to find out more information. Research shows people using these Factsheets felt more able to manage their common condition.
Click on the link for the Factsheet you need:
If you need more advice or they are unsure what the right thing to do is, ask the pharmacist for advice or speak to a doctor or make an appointment to discuss your problem further.
Self-care for long-term conditions
Did you know that patients that are living with a long-term condition will spend, on average, six hours a year with a healthcare professional and the remaining 8,754 hours managing their health for their selves?
Living with a long-term condition brings challenges and it’s important to have the confidence, support and information to manage their health. Self-care can help patients make the most of living with their condition, rather than avoiding or missing out on things because of it. Self-care puts the patient in control.
Research shows that people with long-term conditions who take more control of their health feel more able to cope with their health problem, have better pain management, fewer flare ups and more energy.
We are committed to helping patients live their life with a long-term condition. That’s why we run services where they can get advice on the following conditions:
- Chronic conditions
We will also work in partnership with the patient and other Healthcare professionals to create the right care plan for the patient’s needs. It’s important for the patient to think about what they want from a care plan – it can help the patient if they you know what they want to discuss with GP or Practice Nurse.
NHS Choices suggests some questions patients could ask:
- Where can I find out about self help courses for people who have long-term conditions?
- I want to find out more about my condition. What are the best places to do this?
- Is there any new equipment that might help me manage day-to-day. If so, how do I get it?
- How do I meet other people who have the same condition as me? Is there a local or national support group?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I should make to help my health, such as giving up smoking, avoiding certain foods, or doing more of a certain type of exercise?
- What are the results of my tests and what do they mean for me?
- What happens next?
- What can I do?
- What can the doctor do?
Tips for living with a long-term condition
NHS Choices has created some practical tips on living with a long-term condition. To download a leaflet that explains these in more detail, click here:
- Accept you have a persistent health condition...and then begin to move on
- Get involved – building a support team
- Pacing – pacing your daily activities
- Learn to prioritise and plan your days
- Setting goals/action plans
- Being patient with yourself
- Learn relaxation skills
- Keep a diary and track your progress
- Have a plan for set-backs
- Team work – work with your practice team
- Keeping it up
Find out more about self care for long-term conditions
There is a range of free courses aimed at helping people who are living with a long-term condition to manage their condition better on a daily basis:
- the Expert Patients Programme
- DAFNE (Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating) and DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed) for people with diabetes
- Breathe Easy for people with
These courses usually run over several sessions and will provide advice and tools to put patients in control of their condition.