The onset of a chronic, acute or serious illness can bring unexpected changes and leave you feeling uncertain. The key to regaining control is to get involved in your treatment plan, get informed about the disease and plan ahead.
The following questions can help you get started:
- How much do I know about my illness?
- When you meet with your physician, come prepared to ask questions. Ask someone to accompany you to your appointment to take notes.
- Learn as much as you can about your diagnosis, the course of the illness, treatment options and the possible side effects of each.
- Learn which physicians and hospitals are experts in treating your illness.
- Find organizations that can offer resources, information and support.
- Talk to others with the same diagnosis to learn about their personal experiences.
- Contact your health insurance company to find out exactly what is covered under your plan.
- Do I trust the diagnosis and treatment plan?
- If your answer to this question is “no”, a second opinion is warranted.
- Another physician may help confirm the diagnosis or identify other options to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
- A second opinion may also help reassure you and your family that the illness is being managed appropriately.
- Who is my advocate?
- Because an illness may impact your ability to manage at your full potential, an advocate is essential. An advocate can:
- Provide comfort and support.
- Communicate with healthcare professionals.
- Inform healthcare professionals about your specific needs, concerns, habits, and cultural considerations.
- Encourage family and friends to call, visit, and support you.
- Act as a Health Care Agent if identified in an Advance Directive (legal document).
- What support do I have?
- Identify who you can rely on for support and what role each person will have.
- Talk to your support “team” so that everyone knows their role, and that you are getting the help you need.
- You may ask a neighbor to pick up medication, but rely on your spouse or partner to help administer the medication.
- What plans do I need to put in place?
- Making and changing plans is often necessary over the course of an illness.
- Research your options early to make the best decisions for the future.
- At different stages of your illness, you may have to coordinate resources, such as home modification, home care and assisted living.
Home care can enhance the quality of life for individuals with chronic illness. At Lifematters, we specialize in disease-specific care, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes and COPD. Our clients and their families have peace of mind that our highly trained nursing staff are monitoring for changes in health and managing their condition, all in the comfort of their home. To learn more about how Lifematters can help you or a loved one, visit www.lifemattersusa.com, or call 1-800-293-8973.
Stephanie Chong, LICSW, Director of Community Outreach & Education, Lifematters