Know what supports are available for you and your loved ones with other health concerns

Many of us have health concerns to keep on top of, before coronavirus ever came into the mix.

Thankfully, lots of Irish health organisations have been working hard to change how they deliver their services and communicate with the community during the criris.

There are lots of supports available for patients with heart disease, diabetes, those with mental health concerns and more.

Here are ways you can stay on top of health concerns and in touch with health professionals, particularly if you have an underlying condition.

If you’re feeling low

This is an overwhelming time, and being cooped up at home can take its toll on how you are feeling. The HSE has shared helpful advice on minding your mental health, which is available at yourmentalhealth.ie. The main takeaways are: 

  • If you use existing mental health supports, ensure you have numbers of professionals and trusted relatives and friends to hand in case you need support, and continue any counselling or psychotherapy sessions scheduled
  • Set limits on news consumption, to avoid feeling overwhelmed
  • Resist spending too much time on social media 
  • Maintain your healthy routines, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet
  • Stay connected to friends and family 

Heart disease patients

An estimated 90,000 people in Ireland live with heart failure, a highly debilitating, life-threatening condition which means that the heart is no longer working efficiently and doesn’t pump as well as it should. Heart failure patients are classified as an “at-risk group” by the HSE and may be more at risk of serious illness if they contract the coronavirus.

Irish Heart Foundation and heart failure nurses have launched an online support network for people living with heart conditions. The online forum will allow clinical nurse specialists to share information and advice with patients. Find it on Facebook here.

Irish Heart Foundation has transitioned all in-person support services for people living with heart disease and stroke to online and phone support. 

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is open Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm to take calls and emails from people living with heart disease and stroke and who are concerned about the coronavirus. Call 01 668 5001 or email support@irishheart.ie.

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MS patients 

Multiple Sclerosis Ireland has created a web page with information for patients and their families. Unfortunately, some patients may experience suppressed immune systems as a result of medication they take for their MS, which puts them more at risk of Covid-19. Another concern is that if an MS patient is experiencing a relapse, they are usually prescribed steroids, which again can suppress the immune system. This is why it is important to contact your GP and/or neurologist, and carefully read the guide available here.

Cancer treatment and Covid-19

We all know that chemotherapy or radiotherapy can lower the immune system after treatment, and so covid-19 must be a concern for cancer patients and their families. You can contact the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline by phone or online with any questions you may have. There is also a detailed guide here, with advice on cocooning, for people currently receiving cancer treatment and for cancer survivors.

Diabetes and Covid-19

People with diabetes are considered a high-risk group because having diabetes causes the body to raise glucose levels during times of illness or stress, which makes it difficult to fight infection. That means that a diabetes patient would be more at risk of moderate or severe illness. They have the same risk as people without diabetes of getting Covid-19, they would just be at more risk of serious illness. Like all at-risk groups, it is best to ask others to shop for you, practice physical distancing and follow all HSE advice. Find more advice here.

You can also find advice on how to prepare in case you get Covid-19 on diabetes.ie. For example, people that use an insulin pump should ensure they have insulins to use in case of pump failure, and they should have non-diet drinks and simple foods that contain sugar in case they cannot take solid foods.

Cystinosis Ireland host Virtual Conference

Cystinosis Ireland, the patient and research group for people with cystinosis and their families in Ireland, is to host a virtual conference for those affected by the condition on Saturday April 25 from 1pm to 8.30pm. Over 350 onine delegates are already registered from all over the world, from Mexico to Russia.

The online event, in partnership with Cystinosis Network Europe, had been scheduled to take place in Dublin in July but in light of the current coronavirus pandemic has now been brought forward and is taking place online via Zoom.

Registration for the conference is open and free of charge – visit www.cystinosis.ie for full details.

A rare, genetic disease, cystinosis results in a build-up of the amino acid, cystine, in organs and tissues, which then crystallises leading to severe organ dysfunction. These crystals form firstly in the kidneys and in the eyes, while late complications can occur in muscles, pancreas, thyroid gland and in other parts of the body. Unfortunately, there is no cure.