Chronic conditions are those which are long term (lasting more than six months) and can have a signiﬁcant impact on a person’s life. While they can affect people of all ages, many chronic conditions can be successfully managed to minimise the severity of the symptoms and the impact on a person’s life, particularly through effective use of medication, exercise, improved nutrition and social interaction.
Common chronic conditions include:
- Cardiac Failure
- Obstructive Airways Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Motor Neurone Disease
- Vascular Disease
With an ageing population, chronic diseases are set to increase dramatically among the Irish population. In 2006, 11 per cent of the total population was aged over 65 years. This will rise to at least 22 per cent by 2041, according to the Central Statistics Ofﬁ ce, with the number of people aged over 85 years set to quadruple over the same period.
Older people, by their nature, have more complex chronic illnesses, visit GPs more often and attend outpatient departments more frequently. Indeed, chronic diseases account for approximately 80 per cent of all healthcare costs, 60 per cent of all hospital beds, two- thirds of emergency medical admissions, 5 per cent of inpatients with long-term conditions, and 42 per cent of all acute bed-days. So the management of patients with chronic diseases is already placing signiﬁ cant pressure on our health system, and this will only increase as the population gets older.
The HSE – and more recently and vocally, the Minister for Health – believe that the axis of healthcare can be shifted, with an emphasis on providing treatment at what the Minister calls “the lowest level of complexity”. This means moving patients traditionally cared for in hospitals back into primary care or into the community.
When the right levels of support are in place, unnecessary hospital admissions can even be avoided. And just as importantly, such a shift will dramatically improve the quality of life of patients with chronic conditions.
Bluebird Care shares this philosophy with the HSE and the Minister for Health, and can provide the right levels of support to help keep and treat people at the very lowest level of complexity – in their own home.