Posted by: wrcseniorservices | January 25, 2012

Rolling the Dice on Your Health

Maria stops taking her blood pressure medication because of the cost. Jim has skin cancer removed and never goes back for a follow-up. David stops taking his asthma medicine because he’s doing well and doesn’t think he needs it anymore. Alex ignores the low sodium diet her doctor puts her on because it’s too hard to follow. Jillian never goes in for gynecological exams because it’s too embarrassing.  People make decisions like this everyday. Why? Why do we roll the dice on our most precious gift – our health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every two Americans has a chronic condition, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. That’s a lot of people out there living with a chronic health problem! If you are one of those, taking steps to manage your chronic condition can mean a much better quality of life, especially as you age. You’ve got one life to live and one body to live it in. Take care of it as aggressively as you would protect your own children from harm.

So if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic condition, what do you need to do?

1. Take your medication as prescribed for your condition.

If you have unpleasant side effects, questions or concerns, talk to your doctor and pharmacist. Don’t just quit taking it. There are lots of other options available.

Can’t afford your medication? There is help. First, ask your doc about using generic meds. Ask for samples when you’re in the office. Older adults may qualify for PACE or PACENET. Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance with paying for medications. And there are other Prescription Assistance Programs available. Here are some websites that can give you additional info to get you started – Partnership for Prescription Assistance and Pennsylvania Patient Assistance Program Clearinghouse . Your doctor and pharmacy should have info on these types of programs as well.

Just have trouble remembering to take your meds? Get a pillbox with an alarm or set a timer. You can find several options on Amazon.com or check with your pharmacy.

2. Make and keep follow-up appointments with your doctor.

Even if you are feeling okay, your doctor may detect a small issue that he can treat before it becomes a big one. If you start experiencing a flare-up in symptoms or a change in symptoms, don’t wait until your next appointment. Call and schedule one today! Remember the best way to manage a chronic disease is with a small correction before symptoms get out of hand.

3. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for your treatment.

If your doctor wants you to have more tests, follow-up tests, keep a symptom journal or follow a special diet, there is a reason. If you’re wondering if they are being excessive, ask, “Do you really think all that is necessary?” If you don’t think you need a test, express your concerns, and give the doctor a chance to tell you why. If you don’t think you can follow a special diet, tell them so and ask for a referral to a nutritionist or someone that can help you succeed. Schedule follow-up tests before you ever leave the office. It is amazing how often people dismiss recommendations that are based on years of medical school, experience and research. Before you dismiss, speak up and ask questions, “Why do I need that?” “How is it going to help me?” “What if I don’t do that?”

These three things are a few ways to keep a handle on your chronic condition. In the next blog, I’ll share with you more tips and how WRC Senior Services can help! Remember your health is your greatest gift. Don’t take it for granted.

Dawn Wise
WRC Senior Services
Email me at dwise@wrc.org

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