This is part three of a three part series on Monitoring your Health.
In this final part of Monitoring your Health I want to discuss ways in which you can become a self-advocate for you and your family.
I know that this publication is geared towards the nursing community, however as you must already know, nurses are their own worse enemy! Many nurses are overweight, stressed, suffer from chronic ailments, have poor self-images, and abuse at least one of the following: alcohol, drugs, and food. Many of us have been married more than once, were in abusive relationships, and care for everyone else but ourselves. Denial seems to run rampant among us.
To test your own self-nurturing status take this sample quiz from one of my assessment tools for self-advocacy:
1. Do you fail to get annual pap smears?
2. Are you putting off your annual mammograms?
3. Are you more than 25 pounds overweight?
4. Are you blowing off a regular exercise program?
5. Are you skipping meals during the day?
6. Are you putting the needs of others before your own?
7. Are you neglecting to schedule your physicals annually?
8. Do you get angry easily?
9. Do you find that you have a short fuse?
10. Are you envious and jealous of others?
11. Do you feel worn out and tired most of the time?
If you find that you have more yes responses, than chances are you neglect yourself, your physical, and emotional well-being. Still think you don’t need to advocate for yourself? Why are you neglecting your own health? Make a list of all your excuses and then ask yourself, how would I treat those excuses if a patient gave them to me?
Stop making excuses and start living a more healthy and productive life. You can start by reviewing my recommendations for making your health care provider visits count:
1. Come prepared for your check-up. Write down any questions you might have. You will be surprised how you might forget what you wanted to ask because the doctor is rushing through the exam.
2. Because recommended diagnostic tests are always changing, ask "what are the recommended tests that I should take at my age?"
3. What are my options? For example, you can take a routine mammogram or you might have the option to take the new sonogram heat sensor exam. Why the difference? It has been suggested that the way in which the breast is prepared for the x-ray could actually disturb the integrity of the tumor (if present) and increase the chances of the tumor spreading. The heat sensor exam prevents this occurrence.
4. Have the doctor review all your current medications, including over-the-counter, herbal, and homeopathic. New types of medications are always being released and perhaps you could take one pill that will take care of two problems, such as xanax, a drug used to treat anxiety but also is used to treat insomnia.
5. Ask the doctor to inspect your skin. Melanoma is on the rise, catching it early can save lives.
6. Your body is like a car, you want to check your body from head to toe. Annual physicals should be coupled with annual eye exams, dental exams, and the like. Do you have diabetes? Then you should be getting an A1C every three months.
7. Disclose everything. The doctor can’t do his job if you don’t do yours. We tend to internalize our problems, but those problems manifest themselves in many ways. Nurses have one of the highest incidence of alcohol, drug, cigarette, and food abuse. Don’t be ashamed to acknowledge that you have a problem and need help.
8. Write down all the things you need from the doctor. It is far easier to get forms completed, a new prescription, a referral, for example, during your appointment .
9. Read your health insurance benefit booklet. It is important to know what is covered under your plan and what your exclusions are as well. However just because a condition is purported to be an exclusion doesn’t mean you can’t find a loop-hole in obtaining that service.
For example, there is a Federal Act that states all children born with cleft palates are entitled to full medical care and all oral treatments are covered under the medical component of your policy and not the dental portion. For example, braces are normally covered under dental and there usually is a large patient co-portion. But if the braces are covered under medical, then most if not all of the charges are covered.
10. If you feel you are not being treated fairly you can appeal a decision or go to the insurance commission. Most appeals are denied the first time around. Be persistent. Armed with the right tools you can make mountains move!
It is important to be aware of any changes you might experience within your body. Most of us will make excuses or deny that anything is wrong. A chronic cough may not be allergy related but could be an indication of something much more serious. Diarrhea is not normal and never should be treated as such. You could have developed an allergy to something you are eating or have developed a malfunction of the bowel. Vision changes are not always age-related; my father had a freckle on his retina that became cancerous.
Lastly remember that children and some elderly parents can’t advocate for themselves. And what about that stubborn husband who thinks he is perfectly healthy and doesn’t need to see the doctor? Tell him how much you love him and how important it is to ensure he is healthy. Nagging him will not encourage him to see the doctor but only encourage him to dig his heels in deeper. He needs to know that he is an important part of the family. Find out what his concerns are and discuss them. Usually that is enough to help him make the right decision.