Tribune Print Share Text

Be a strong advocate for your health care

Created date

December 25th, 2012
Matt Narrett, M.D., is chief medical officer for Erickson Living and leads the medical team at all Erickson Living communities. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and has been providing care for seniors for over three decades. According to recent Medicare and health care surveys, over half of American adults age 65 and up are dealing with three or more chronic medical conditions. If you are among this group, it is critically important to consider each of your health conditions and your personal goals as you weigh treatment options. Medical problems such as high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, and osteoporosis are all too common and each of these conditions can affect more than just the organ system it directly involves. For instance, high blood pressure can affect your heart, kidneys, blood vessels, brain, and other areas as well. Just as each of these conditions will impact other organ systems, so too will the treatments for each of these conditions. You may currently be taking several medications and preparing to undergo diagnostic tests or therapeutic treatments. It can get very complicated, and it is important to understand the impact of each treatment or procedure in the context of all your medical conditions. Fortunately, you have your medical provider to help keep it all straight, but please stay active in the process and partner with your doctor in all your medical decisions. Only you know how you feel, and the more you share with your provider, the better decisions you can make together. Your overall plan of care should consider the specific treatments of each condition as well as your personal goals and how well it fits into your daily routine.

Ways to help yourself

Obtain as much information as possible about any medication, treatment, or test. Before trying something new, ask your doctor about options, alternatives, and side effects. For instance, while it may be more convenient for you to take a single pill once a day, there may be something with fewer side effects that you can take twice a day. Perhaps there is even an entirely drug-free option to reduce your symptoms and avoid medication side effects altogether. Find out about how medications and treatments affect all your disease processes. Once you ve started something, report any side effects and let your doctor know if something isn t working. Are the benefits worth the risks? Only you can make that decision, and you may want to include others in your decision-making process, such as family members or close friends. Beyond just treating a disease, you need to consider how any portion of your regime impacts other areas of your life, such as your appetite, energy level, or mood. What s acceptable varies from person to person. Ask about ways to fit treatments into your schedule, and if it is all too complex, you and your doctor can adjust accordingly. Communication and sharing your desires, needs, and wants are critical to your treatment plan, especially if you have multiple conditions. Never hesitate to ask questions and work with your doctor to find a solution that works for you. In good health, Dr. Narrett