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Tips to Cope with HIV and AIDS Medication Compliance

by Dr. Gary McClain
Wednesday Jun 27, 2012

Dr. Gary McClain released a set of tips to help individuals being treated for chronic conditions, such as HIV and AIDS to cope with compliance burnout. He addresses a serious need he saw going unfulfilled; namely, a way for newly-diagnosed patients to receive help in coping with their emotional reactions to their diagnosis.

McClain discussed the impact of compliance burnout on the clients that he works with in his practice.

"Chronically-ill patients may become fed up with what they have to do to accommodate their condition in their daily lives. Medication regimens. Side effects. Diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes. Many of these stories are heartbreaking, especially when the person sharing the experience is so frustrated and overwhelmed that they are not sure if the benefits are worth the struggles of their daily grind."

"I don't have a magic formula for dealing with compliance burnout," McClain continued. "But I have some practical tips that I give my clients."

McClain's tips for coping with compliance burnout include:

1. Be part of a community.
Traveling alone can get lonely. Talk to others who have been diagnosed with your condition. Learn what they do to stay on the path. Share some tips. Give each other some encouragement. Support is power.

2. Focus on what's good in your life.
It might help to make a list on the blessings in your life and then review your list during those times when you are feeling especially discouraged. And yes, your treatment regimen presents some challenges, sure. But what's the upside? Is your regimen contributing toward maintaining what's good in your life? The cup may feel half empty, but it is also at least half full.

"Remind yourself - every day - that you are worth all the work and all the inconvenience." - Dr. McClain

3. See if anything needs to be tweaked.
It may be time to update your regimen in some way. Or to adjust your day to day life management, diet, activities, schedules. Burnout can also be a sign that something in your regimen needs to be evaluated and potentially changed for the better. Update your education. Have a conversation with your doctor.

4. Don't let other people make you feel bad about yourself.
Nobody asks to have a chronic condition or to face the daily challenges that come along with it. You certainly didn't. Educate and reassure your family members and friends as much as they will allow you to. Get support from people who can be supportive. And maybe it's time to stop expecting support from the people who can't give it to you.

5. Maintain your perspective.
Staying on the compliance path is a one step at a time, one day at a time, process. But humans have a tendency to do a lot of "what if-ing" and "awful-izing." Our minds can create a bleak future, filled with scary possibilities but devoid of the facts, which can lead to that "why bother?" question. We only know what we can know. Today. Taking the best care of yourself is the best you can do for yourself. Today. Flood the fear with facts.

6. Consider the alternative.
Okay, maybe it's time for some tough love. If all else fails, bring in the heavy artillery. Remaining compliant is most likely preventing symptoms from recurring, and possibly helping to prevent further problems down the road. And it allows you to be the best you can for yourself and the people you care about. In that way, your regimen is similar to an insurance policy.

7. Take care of your emotions.
When you aren't feeling good physically, you go to a doctor. When you feel overwhelmed emotionally, then this is a good time to reach out to a mental health professional. Don't go through this alone. Find a safe place to talk about your feelings, including the "bad" ones. Yes, it's okay to vent.

8. But also keep mind that staying compliant with your medication and self-care regimen is not only the result of whether you are "feeling it" or not.
Taking the best possible care of yourself is a rational decision. And I know that on those days when you are feeling your worst, or when it's hardest to be complain, it's hard not to ask the "why me?" question. But staying complaint is a decision that you make and that you decide to stick with, even on those days when it's the last thing you want to do. You do it because you do it.

McClain concluded with the advice that he gives his clients: "Remind yourself - every day - that you are worth all the work and all the inconvenience. It hasn't always a party but you've been doing it so far. Why not to commit to the future - to doing everything you can do so that you can be everything that you can be? Place your own self-care at the top of your list of priorities. After all, that's what makes all the good things in your life that much more possible!"

Dr. Gary McClain is a licensed counselor, educator, life coach and author who specializes in working with individuals who have been diagnosed with chronic and catastrophic medical conditions, focusing on issues that include coping emotionally, gathering information, making lifestyle and treatment decisions, managing relationships, and communicating with healthcare professionals.


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