Staying with family not only provides affection and emotional support but also plays an important role in managing chronic illnesses, suggests a recent study.
According to researchers, a family approach may produce more effective, long-term benefits for the patient.
Study author Lynn Martire from Penn State said that family intervention approaches -- such as working together to make dietary changes -- can be an effective strategy for improving chronic illness management.
"For some family groups, setting goals together for making lifestyle changes such as healthier eating habits and regular exercise, helps patients to stay on track and may benefit family members as well," she said.
Martire said that this approach could have positive implications on healthcare costs as well as the treatment of patients.
"Self-management of chronic illness can reduce these healthcare costs, and close family members such as a parent or the spouse play an important role in helping patients to manage their illness," Martire noted.
According to the authors, patients and family members can work together to monitor patients' illness symptoms, keep medical appointments and help the patient stick to medication regimens as a strategy for chronic illness management.
The use of technology to maintain behaviour change may also be a promising approach, the authors suggested.
Some treatment programmes require frequent travel on the part of patients and families, which limits their accessibility.
Technology-supported approaches such as web- or mobile phone-based programmes could reach a broader population of patients and family members.
"There is certainly more to learn about the influence of family on patient illness management," Martire stated.
However, it is not too soon to develop theory-based interventions that aim to change specific health-related behaviors of family members to see if patients' illness management improves, the researchers explained.
The research appears in Journal of Current Directions in Psychological Science.