Becoming an Active Participant in Our Health Care

Portrait of the old woman on a green background

TONI ABBEY, RN, OCN | JUNE 24, 2016

Having the blessing of human body ownership brings responsibility and accountability (if only to ourselves) of keeping them well tuned. As is with our bicycles, regular maintenance is necessary if we don’t want to end-up with expensive repairs, to prolong its usefulness and maintain a semblance of quality of life as we age. If we refuse the maintenance responsibility of bike ownership, bikes can be replaced. For this body of humanness – replacement is not an option.

And so it goes, maintenance is the key to the smooth operation of our being. Participation in maintenance of our being means we are taking the steps to learn how to prevent disease, to develop an awareness of our body in its “normal” state of health, and to seek prompt medical care when we find something isn’t working as it usually has.

When we “show-up” for our health care, we become involved with our care. We aren’t standing on the sidelines waiting for someone else to take the lead. When we choose the right doctors, make a plan about how we will communicate with them, ask questions and gather information about our health we can make informed decisions about our care. And, the most important piece we need to show-up for may be to discover our readiness and our motivation to set goals and to implement that plan of care.

Once we have a good understanding of the treatment plan of care, it is our responsibility to implement the plan. Sometimes, it may mean more visits with our physician or health care team to gain a better understanding of our disease or treatment plan, or to receive the coaching that may help us discover what motivates us to make and to continue that change. It doesn’t usually happen all at once, and many of us know all too well – maintenance is a lifetime process.

As we become engaged and increase our participation in our health care, our physicians may be more inspired to help us understand our health, the health risks related to our disease, and to be our partner in helping us make treatment choices.

The Center for Advancing Health (CFAH) has developed an excellent wide-ranging list – a roadmap – of behaviors that individuals (or the people who help them) must do in order to maximize their health care, entitled Engagement Behavior Framework that serves as a guide to help get the most of health care and health care encounters.

The best time to learn how to participate in our health care is now. If we become fully engaged participants before we are overwhelmed with a chronic illness, our participation in our health care will become second nature when faced with the distress associated with illness.

Taking full responsibility & care of our bodies is an ever-evolving process if our goal is to keep moving.

For more information and resources:
Aftershock: What to Do When the Doctor Gives You – or Someone You Love – a Devastating Diagnosis. Jessie Gruman. Walker Publishing, second edition, 2010.

CFAH – Prepared Patient: Be a Prepared Patient, Patient Engagement.

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