Is it a physician’s job to manage your health? To be frank, your well-being is ultimately up to you. While your doctor can make suggestions regarding medical and clinical issues, the patient is the one who has to make the ultimate decision. If individuals aren’t capable of making healthcare choices, the next best option is a family member. You can actively participate in making treatment decisions when you claim some autonomy over your health and wellness.

Get Familiar with Your Family’s Medical History

Your family’s health history goes a long way in dictating your predisposition toward certain diseases. In fact, it may be one of the strongest predictors of ailments such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Although you can’t change your genetic structure, you can take extra care to manage certain aspects of your health when you know that they’re at risk.

It’s important to know if a family member has experienced illness at a younger age than expected. It’s also crucial to note if someone has had a disease that normally affects people of the opposite sex, such as an uncle with breast cancer. If more than one relative has had a particular disease or a combination of illnesses, the risk for a related patient may be higher.

When you entrust your medical care to a family member, you can work together to identify the health conditions that have affected your ancestors and descendants. Talking to parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and children about their medical conditions can help. Going over death and medical records for family members may also be necessary.

It’s important to share all this information with your doctor. A family member who cares for you will also need to have access to this knowledge. They can use it to help you modify your lifestyle and take preventative measures to ensure good health and longevity.

Keep Track of Pertinent Health Data

Getting organized can help you take control of your health. Maintain a personal health record that includes:
• Your name and birthday
• Emergency contacts
• Contacts for all physicians and pharmacies that you deal with
• Blood type
• Vaccinations and dates administered
• Health conditions, including allergies
• Medications that you take, including their dosage and frequency

Include the dates and results of any examinations that you’ve had within the past several years. Once you put this document together, you need to keep it up to date. Continue to make note of the results of doctors’ visits. Keep all records together in a file folder if possible.

Having a trusted family member help you do this can ensure that your records are comprehensive. If your family member is also your caregiver, they can accompany you on doctor’s visits and assist you with keeping your records up to date.

Make Informed Decisions

Every patient has the right to informed consent. This means that you can ask questions about recommended treatments and get all of the information that you need to make educated decisions about your care.

It’s not always easy to commit to a decision even when you have information at your fingertips, though. Having a loved one share in the process can give you confidence that you’ve asked the right questions and considered all of the angles.

When a family member is also your caregiver, this process is streamlined. You may trust a family member more than another caregiver. Also, someone who understands your medical history, as well as that of your family, can help you come up with the right questions to ask.

To make an informed decision, it helps to inquire about:
• The diagnosis
• Recommended options for treatment
• Alternative treatment options

One question that patients may neglect to ask is, “What if I do nothing?”

When your care provider can accompany you to doctors’ visits, you can ask and assess the responses to these answers together. Doing this ensures that you’re taking responsibility for your care instead of leaving it up to someone else. It can also help you be prepared for future consultations with health care providers.

Follow Up

An elderly patient may not always remember to follow up after doctors’ appointments. Caregivers can take on this role if they’ve been given the authority. Appropriate follow-up procedures may involve:
• Asking questions about medications or treatment
• Notifying the physician about side effects
• Scheduling appointments or lab work
• Contacting medical professionals to obtain test results

Your doctor is not with you 24/7. It’s up to you to take control of your health so that you can share in decision-making and collaborate with all of your health care professionals and caregivers. When you have the freedom to make your own decisions, you may even avoid unnecessary procedures and reduce your medical costs.

If a patient can’t take an active role in their health, a family member can do it for them. When family members also act as caregivers, patient satisfaction improves and medical care can be more effective.