Why Manage Your Care? Five good reasons.

How often have we left a doctor’s office, started a new diet, or even bought new vitamins while all along a big ? is left hanging over our head. What did she say? How will this help? What are these for?

Our options for health, wellness, and health-care are so enormous these days that sometimes it can feel overwhelming to try to make heads or tails out of our options for treatment, whether preventative, curative, or palliative. It’s like going into a bookstore without a clear sense of what book you want to buy; the possibilities are endless!!

There are some very good reasons why knowing about our care is important. When we are informed about our care, we’re empowered to make informed decisions about what kind of care we receive. Not only that, when we’re informed about our care, then the decisions that we make are based upon what we know about our care and not simply based upon the advice (however good) of others. When we are actively involved in making health-care decisions, we’re less likely to find ourselves down a path that we’d had no intention of entering.

On more occasions than I can remember, I’ve worked with patients and clients who were sincerely wanting the best care that they could get, but were totally uninformed even as to what medications they were taking. I’ve had patients getting ready for a surgery who didn’t even know the exact nature of what was going to be done. I’ve also worked with patients who did not want any life-saving or heroic care performed, and who ended up in the Intensive Care Unit on numerous medications and machines that were not in accord with those wishes.

So, why manage your own care? Glad that you asked.

  1. Begin by knowing about your body, about what makes it feel good, what makes it feel unwell, and ways that you can contribute to optimum health. While this seems almost too simplistic, it’s amazing how often we’ll do something, eat something, or even say something that we know, that we can feel, is not good for us. And yet, even though we know deep inside that what we’re doing isn’t good for us, we do it anyway. Why? Because we’re used to doing it, because it’s become a habit. When something becomes a dependent habit, we call it an addiction, but it’s still a habit. So, we need to take a look at our habits and make a commitment to change those habits that we know are not good for our body or mind.
  2. Once you’ve become disciplined in knowing yourself and your needs and recognizing those things that do not promote an optimum level of physical and mental wellness, you can work with whatever challenges or opportunities present themselves. As this relates to health-care management, this means that when things do go wrong, or when you are presented with health-care challenges, you can ask yourself, “what is it that I want?” This may be deciding on what kind of surgery to have, or whether to have a certain surgery, or what avenue of pain management to pursue. While the potential circumstances are infinite, the basis of making any health-care decision should be based upon your knowledge of yourself.
  3. Know your illness, diagnosis, or challenge. It’s one matter to be informed about what your diagnosis or condition is, but it’s quite another to become educated about your diagnosis. With the amount of information available to health-care consumers, there are more than an overwhelming number of media sites, websites, and resources to choose from. On the internet, go to professional organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health website, or to support networks such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Or, if you’re exploring alternative and complementary medicine, find established sites that are written and informed by individuals who are experienced and well-versed in the methods or modalities being suggested. Find blogs which have significant subscriber numbers and which are actively posting new and updated information. There are many blogs whose sole purpose is to sell a product. Often times these sites will have testimonials and articles which make claims about their products. Investigate; do an online search, “xxxxx product, complaints, feedback.” It’s amazing how many times you can find out about very negative outcomes on products which have been described as “completely safe.” Do the work, become educated.
  4. Once you’ve been started on a new medication or new product, find out all that you can about it. If you’ve been started on a prescription medication, find out what its side-effects are, what it interacts with, what dietary restrictions may needed to be adhered to. For instance, ongoing research is revealing a host of medications of many kinds that are negatively affected by drinking grapefruit juice. It’s not necessary to know everything about your medication, because even most physicians and nurses don’t know about all of the potential side-effects of every medication. But educating yourself about even the most common side-effects and interactions of your medications can make a huge difference in whether you’ll experience unanticipated negative events.
  5. Be flexible and move with the changes. Just as your body changes from different states of wellness and illness, your attitudes towards, and uses of different modalities, medications, procedures, and such will change. One day acupuncture may not be thinkable, and then after being diagnosed with chronic pain,  you may find that it is the only thing that helps. Or, you may have decided not to have surgery on an injury, but now the injury is significantly affecting your ability to live your life without discomfort.

And these are not the only reasons by any stretch of the imagination. Nor are they the most important. I’ve provided them just to get you thinking about how you can manage your care in a way that gives you control over how you’ll receive your care.

Managing your care is about taking back the responsibility for your health and wellness from the individuals and institutions who have been charged with providing you with healthcare services. It’s not about second-guessing those who clearly have the expertise and know-how about how to treat you, nor is it about trying to manage all of your medical care. It’s about you being an active participant in your care, making sure that you are informed, well-advised, and educated about your health and your care.