How to be an Empowered Patient
Mick Jagger probably said it best, “What a drag it is getting old.” Eyesight gets blurry, knees go bad, back goes out, menopause hits…and let’s not forget hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other chronic health problems. As we Baby Boomers age, we usually make more visits to the doctor. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 57% of doctor visits were made by those 45 years old and over in 2008; that’s up from 49% in 1998. With life expectancy hovering at a little more than 80 years old for women and 75 years old for men, that’s a lot more doctor visits on our horizons.
Many Baby Boomers are also caring for their aging parents, who are living longer, too. It’s often up to Boomer sons and daughters to advocate for their parents’ care. Boomers are a generation known for questioning authority, and that nonconformist spirit shouldn’t stop at the doctor’s office. Marcus Welby, M.D. may have taught us “doctor knows best,” but Boomers need to empower themselves and their loved ones when it comes to health care.
The idea of patients taking control of their health care is catching on with the media. CNN Online has an Empowered Patient section by medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. The September issue of Scientific American featured an article on “The Rise of the Empowered Patient.” The basic message is that no one will look after the well-being of your family with more diligence than you.
So how do you become an empowered patient? Information is the key. Ask your doctor questions. Don’t know what questions to ask? Research health issues that are pertinent to you. Health information online is abundant, but may not be vetted thoroughly. An excellent place to start your information search is MedlinePlus, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus offers the latest health information, tutorials, directories, plus lots more.
And don’t forget that the Torrance Public Library has books on how to empower yourself as a patient:
- Hospital Stay Handbook: A Guide to Becoming a Patient Advocate for Your Loved Ones by Jari Holland Buck
- Taking Charge of Your Own Health by Lisa Hall
- Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely: Making Intelligent Choices in America’s Health Care System by Davis Liu
- What You Don’t Know Can Kill You: A Physician’s Radical Guide to Conquering the Obstacles to Excellent Medical Care by Laura Nathanson
- After the Diagnosis: How to Look Out for Yourself or a Loved One by Donna L. Pikula
- You, The Smart Patient: An Insider’s Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment by Michael F. Roizen
Tell us your stories of how you were able to empower yourself or a loved one and receive better care.