4 Tips for Becoming Your Own Health Advocate
By Jennifer McGregor
Do you feel a sense of dread when you have to make a doctor’s appointment? Are you worried about being brushed off or misunderstood by your providers? The healthcare system is flawed, and it can be intimidating to find caring professionals who will listen to your concerns.
If your fear of doctors is scarier than the potentially dangerous condition you need to address, this outlines some ways you can practice self-advocacy and take more control of your healthcare management.
1. Keep Your Own Records
No one can describe who you are as well as you can. Therefore, when it comes to documenting your medical records for yourself and future doctors, you should take the initiative to compile your history in a way that effectively tells your story. Whether you keep a physical binder or digital folder, your records should include the following:
- Family history of illness
- Allergies to foods or medications
- Diagnoses, surgeries and procedure history
- List of current medications and dosages
- X-rays, imaging files and lab analysis reports
This task may seem daunting, but once you establish your records, you’ll find it easy to build on. If you have paper copies of any medical records, you can take pictures of these documents with your phone and turn them into PDFs.
PDFs are ideal for completing forms quickly, and a PDF lets you sign documents online so you can complete documents without having to print and mail them. It’s as simple as uploading the file online to make changes, then downloading and sharing with those privy to your information.
2. Ask All the Questions
Lecturio notes that doctor-patient communication is crucial to medical care. Your providers are passionate about your health, but they may sometimes forget that you don’t speak the same language when talking about the systems in your body.
If you feel that your healthcare team isn’t addressing your concerns or listening to your ideas, then you should feel empowered to speak up. If you’re uncomfortable with your doctor’s orders, HealthPartners points out that you should seek a second opinion from a more compassionate and communicative provider.
3. Take Control of Your Lifestyle
If you want your healthcare team to take your aches and pains seriously, it’s important that you do the same. To optimize your health and wellness, you should work to build a lifestyle that values your physical, mental and emotional well-being. You don’t need to become an ultra-marathoning raw vegan, but you can implement a few small, effective changes, such as:
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Using half of your lunch break to work out or take a walk
- Getting enough sleep every night
- Swapping cocktails for “mocktails”
- Making time for hobbies and self-care
- Seeking spiritual guidance or professional mental health counseling
4. Know When It's Time to Accept Help
If you suffer from a medical condition that becomes too difficult to manage on your own, then it may be time to seek additional help. Perhaps you have a family member willing to act as your part-time caregiver, or perhaps you require assistance from a home health aide.
If you need daily or constant care in managing a serious medical condition, then it might be best to consider entering senior living. You’ll feel better knowing you can rely on a skilled nursing professional to help you when you’re struggling. When choosing a facility, be sure to thoroughly vet establishments, read online reviews and research essential factors such as facility reports, cost and payment plans.
Self-advocacy is hard work, but it is extremely important to take care of yourself in addition to asserting your values, needs and priorities so your healthcare providers can give you the care you desire and deserve.