Total Access Medical - Direct Primary Care Blog

What You Should Know About Living With Multiple Health Problems

Posted by William Kirkpatrick on Sep 28, 2016

geriatric-doctors.pngDealing with the temporary pain and aggravation of a broken bone isn't easy but at least it's short-lasting. This is not true for high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and other chronic conditions which have no "cure" in sight. Chronic conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, require ongoing medical attention and can significantly limit daily living activities. The health status of a person living with a chronic condition can improve, deteriorate, or shift in either direction. 

As America ages, the population of people with chronic conditions will increase dramatically. Right now, more than half of all adults 65 and older have three or more chronic medical problems. By 2030, nearly 150 million Americans are projected to have a chronic condition; 42 million of those will be limited in their ability to go to school, to work, or to live independently. 

Here are some tips for older adults living with several chronic health problems:

Tip #1: Gather as much information about treatment options as possible

You should work with your primary care doctor to understand all of your options for care and take an active role in deciding what kind of care you would like. You should also decide if you want to make all of your care decisions on your own, or include others—such as family members, or friends—in the decision-making process. And you should always let your doctor know right away if you have questions or concerns, want to stop treatment, or want try something new.

Tip #2: Self monitor

Take responsibility for your care and don't leave everything to your doctor. One proven way to do this is to listen to your body and track its changes. For example, if you have hypertension, you should learn how to check your blood pressure. Or, if your heart has rhythm problems, you should learn how to check your pulse. This kind of personal monitoring lets you spot potentially harmful changes before they become worse.

Related article: Heath Tip: Managing Chronic Health Conditions 

Tip #3: Tell your doctor immediately if a treatement does not seem to be working

Since there isn’t a lot of research examining how older adults with complex health problems respond to treatments, your doctor may not be able to predict exactly how a treatment will affect you. Because of this, it’s very important for you or your caregiver to tell your doctor as soon as possible if a treatment doesn’t seem to be working or is causing side effects.

Tip #4: Determine treatment options based on your priorities 

Decide what treatment outcomes are important to you. For example, you may want to remain as independent as you can, for as long as possible. Therefore, you may prefer a treatment with fewer side effects, even if this treatment may not prolong your life as long as other treatments. This is just one example—you should ask your doctor how different treatment options will affect the aspects of your life that are most important to you, such as your level of independence, stamina, or pain.

Most medications and other treatments have both benefits and risks. Talk with your doctor about possible benefits of each treatment, and also, possible drawbacks—such as increased risks of disability, new health problems, and poorer quality of life. Understanding all of the pros and cons of each treatment will help you decide which option is best for you.

Your doctor should make the most important and effective treatments the highest priority. Your treatment plan should fit your needs and preferences, while getting you the most benefits and least amount of risks. Among other things, your doctor should be able to tell you about non-medication treatment options—and to use those when possible—to avoid potentially dangerous interactions between medications, and other side effects. Ask your doctor if there are non-medication options for at least some of your symptoms.

Tip #5: Speak up if your treatment plan is too complicated to manage

In its 2003 report on medication adherence, the World Health Organization quoted the statement, “increasing the effectiveness of adherence interventions may have a far greater impact on the health of the population than any improvement in specific medical treatments. Among patients with chronic illness, approximately 50% do not take medications as prescribed."

Let your doctor know if your treatment becomes too complicated or too difficult for you to follow. Make sure you understand all instructions before you leave your doctor’s office. Ask him or her to work with you to make instructions as simple and easy-to-follow as possible. And, being prepared beforehand with a list of questions for your next doctor’s appointment will help ensure a more productive visit and increase the potential for a more effective outcome.

Tip #6: Make a healthy investment in yourself

Part of the treatment for almost any chronic condition involves lifestyle changes. You know the ones we mean — stopping smoking, losing weight, exercising more, and shifting to healthier eating habits. These steps should not be demoted to the back burner. The people who make such changes are more likely to be successfully managing a chronic condition than those who don't. From feeling better to living longer, investing the time and energy to make healthy changes is always worth it.

You do not have to manage your chronic conditions by yourself. Your doctor should be by your side through all of your personal trials and tribulations. But, if your doctor doesn't appreciate you or if you feel as though your doctor isn't doing his or her best to be by your side than consider becoming a member of a direct primary care practice. With direct primary care, you're guarenteed same day scheduled appointments for check-ups, preventive care and physicals. Patients say they have a much more personal relationship with their doctor, especially when they can contact their personal physician 24 / 7 via their personal cell phone. 

Don't take on your chronic conditions alone! Total Access Medical is here to help.


Topics: Health, Chronic Pain, Chronic Conditions, Home Care