The health care system you grew up with is not the same system you are growing older with. You have more choices and more responsibilities. To get the best possible care, step up and partner with your health care team. Say Ah!’s tips will help you do this.
Ask for help at every turn. The health care system is too much for one person to deal with during the best of times, and almost impossible during bad ones. Find a friend or family member to help you with big and small things, such as making an appointment, going with you to the doctor, or thinking of questions to ask your care provider about your health.
Keep a “Health Diary:” Write down things about your health that you would like to talk about with your doctor. These could be ongoing symptoms, questions you think of, how you feel when you take your medication. Date the entries, and take the “Diary” with you to your appointments.
Speak up for yourself: Your health care providers need to know what you are thinking, so please tell them! Whether you are having trouble swallowing a medication or the information in your file is incorrect or you just don’t feel comfortable with a recommended treatment, your doctor can’t help you if s/he doesn’t know about it. Studies show nearly everyone is afraid to raise issues or challenge their care provider, but doctors want to know what you are thinking. Tell them!
Ask questions: There are no stupid questions when you are dealing with your health. Ask about everything — the meaning of a medical term, how to follow-up, what you should do in case of an emergency. Ask about risks and benefits of a treatment, ask about costs. Any question or concern you have should be addressed.
Make sure you can hear and see, and are comfortable: Doctors offices and health care centers can be poorly lit and loud places. They can be as cold as ice boxes, too. Ask the doctor to:
- Speak loudly and slowly and look you in the eye
- Turn off background noise, close the door
- Turn down the air conditioning, give you a pillow, etc.