Approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, which means as we age we’re more likely to need additional support from our healthcare providers. It’s a common practice to take a doctor’s belief as to the final word; however, individuals need to play an active role in their own healthcare. Learning how to be an advocate for your health can help you become more confident in making decisions, nurture trusting doctor-patient relationships, and lead to better overall treatment.
Staying in Control of Your Health
Every individual deserves to have control over their healthcare, but knowing where to start might feel like a challenge. Becoming your own healthcare advocate starts by thinking about what you want out of your experience and what you need to feel confident about your healthcare-related decisions. U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of tips to help you get started. Here are a few of our favorite ways to become an advocate for your health:
Understand your medical insurance
Medical insurance can be complicated, but understanding your policy will serve you well. This insight will help you know which healthcare providers are available to you and how to budget for medical costs. If you’re 65 years and older, you’re eligible for Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program for older adults and can be broken down into four parts. You can learn more about Medicare here.
Know which questions to ask
Healthcare providers typically see several patients in one day, so you may not have much one-on-one time with your doctor. Create a list of questions and ask them at the beginning of the appointment. This can help the visit progress naturally and will ensure your most important questions get answered. Getting your questions answered is paramount to being an advocate for your own health.
Maintain your medical records
If you’re seeing a new healthcare provider or adding a specialist, consider keeping your own copy of your medical records. Most healthcare providers keep electronic copies of your records, so sharing them shouldn’t be difficult. Having your records handy puts you and your doctor on common ground, and it can expedite the process of beginning a new healthcare relationship.
Always review your medical bills
Medical bills can be difficult to understand, and reviewing them can save you money. Instead of paying your medical bill immediately, take some time to review it. Question anything that doesn’t add up or seems like an extra charge. This can also help you improve your medical literacy for the future.
Ask for a second opinion
If you don’t understand your diagnosis, receive recommendations for major non-emergency surgery, or if you don’t feel comfortable with your healthcare provider — seek a second medical opinion. A reputable physician will understand a patient’s desire for this and may even recommend another doctor. A physician’s resistance to your getting a second opinion should be seen as a red flag. A second opinion can often save you money and keep you feeling confident in your choices.
Communicate concerns and needs
The best way to advocate for your health is to communicate what you need with your healthcare provider. If you have questions about the cost of your premium, treatment plans, diagnosis, or medications — you’re within your rights to ask and get answers.
What Are You Advocating For?
Before any appointment, spend some time reflecting on what would make you feel most comfortable and cared for during a medical visit. This could be anything from the level of attentiveness from staff to the ease of parking at the office. You want to advocate for your ideal appointment, whatever that might look like. Here are a few things to consider:
Office. What does your ideal doctor’s office look like? Spend some time thinking about your expectations and start advocating for them right away. Do you want an office that is clean and organized? Do you prefer your office to have a dedicated wait space that is well maintained? Are the chairs easy to get in and out of? By evaluating the importance of these items, you’ll have a better idea of your expectations and how to seek them out.
Staff. During an ideal medical appointment, think about how you’d expect to be treated by the office staff. Are they friendly and attentive? Do they put in extra effort to explain your billing questions and professionally address your concerns? If you’re dissatisfied with the way you’re treated, mention it to your doctor. Ultimately, they’re in charge of your experience.
Practitioners. While all aspects of a medical appointment are important, it’s crucial to evaluate the expectations you have for your practitioner. What values are important for you? Is a certain amount of time with the provider an expectation? By clarifying what qualities are non-negotiable — to yourself and your provider — you’ll know when you’ve found an ideal doctor-patient relationship.
What to Do Before Your Appointment
Preparation is part of being an advocate for your health. The more prepared you are for your appointment or medical event, the more confident you’ll feel. Here are a few things you can do to get prepared:
Research your provider
Learn about your provider, especially if it’s your first time. Do an online search about them. Ask friends if they have a provider they trust and would recommend, or call the provider’s office and ask for some additional information.
Guide the conversation
If there’s certain information you want your practitioner to know before your appointment, you can always disclose any additional information when scheduling the visit. For example, if you’re overweight and you would prefer not to discuss this topic, the staff can make a note of this and share it with the healthcare provider.
Keep track of your symptoms
If you’re seeing a practitioner for a specific reason, keep track of your symptoms or whatever might be bothering you. This can help speed up the diagnosis process and help you get the right treatment quickly.
Advocating for Health at Maplewood Senior Living
Protecting the health and well-being of our residents is our priority at Maplewood Senior Living. Our communities offer high-quality care that is patient-centered and customized to meet the needs of each individual. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or schedule a tour, please contact us. It’s a smart step toward becoming your own health advocate.
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