Multiple Diagnoses: How to Advocate for Your Health

Last updated: December 2022

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Alene Brennan and originally appeared on our partner site

Because my health challenges started at such a young age, my parents were my first advocates. They fought hard for me to receive the best care. They sought out the best doctors, they asked about the best treatment options, and they were proactive in creating an integrative plan for me.

This became one of the most valuable lessons my parents taught me growing up. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were teaching me the steps to become my own health advocate, which is a life skill that continues to serve me today.

Here are the top 5 lessons I took from this experience.

1. Treat your body well

We each get one body. One. It’s our job to take the very best care of it. That means fueling up on good nutrition, enjoying an active lifestyle, getting proper sleep, and managing stress. This sets the foundation for our health. Before we can expect others to take care of our body, we need to be the first to play an active role in our health.

2. Seek out the best

There are circumstances that may be out of our control and can lead to unwanted health conditions. If and when this happens, seek out the very best medical care. This starts by proactively having a trusted and collaborative primary care doctor. Your primary care doctor is often your first stop when a symptom arises. If you’ve been going for regular visits over the years, they will know your health history. If you start with solid guidance there, it can expedite your journey to a proper diagnosis and return to health.

When seeking out either a primary care doctor or specialist, my parents would explore their educational background and experience, as well as recommendations – now easily found online. You want to know the doctor has the clinical experience and a professional and caring bedside manner. These are equally important.

This will be especially important if, at any point, they need to collaborate with the specialists of your other health conditions. You want someone who can easily “play well in the sandbox,” so to speak.

3. Always ask for a copy

Whether it’s an office visit, lab work, or imaging appointment, always ask for a copy of your visit information. It’s easy to assume that there is a golden database that all your future physicians can use to access your information when they need it, but that doesn’t exist. If you have a copy of your medical records, it’s easier to be prepared for each appointment and keep every player on your healthcare team informed about what the other practitioners are doing.

4. It’s okay to fire your doctor.

Along the way, know that if you aren’t satisfied with a healthcare provider you started working with, it’s okay to fire them. You know your body best. If you don’t feel the doctor is honoring that or giving you the time you need in an appointment, you have the right to seek out another provider.

5. Track your symptoms

It’s really challenging to try to remember details when you’re in your doctor’s appointment. Yet with physician appointments running about 10 minutes, you don’t have much time to ponder the details of what brought you in for the appointment.

Find a notebook or app that you can use to track your symptoms. Your notes will be tremendously helpful to both you and your healthcare team to identify any potential patterns in your symptoms. This is especially true if you’re living with multiple health diagnoses. Your symptoms may be a side effect of a medicine or another condition.

So, these are the steps that I find to be most helpful. How about you? What has helped you? Please answer in the comments section below.

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