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Simple steps to help seniors navigate their health care

0 2 years ago

Seniors face increasing risks of developing chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes, dementia and heart disease, but navigating the health care system to manage what ails them may seem overwhelming. A few simple steps can help seniors safeguard their health and independence.

Talk with friends

First and foremost, seniors should talk with friends and family, ask questions and learn from other people’s experiences, said Maria Radwanski, manager of care transitions and outpatient adult care management at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

“It’s common for someone who hasn’t had any health problems suddenly to be faced with their own issues and the need to navigate the health care system,” Radwanski said. “Before that happens, talk with friends who’ve been dealing with health concerns — especially if they’ve been in the hospital — to hear about their experiences so you have a better idea of what it might be like.”

Find a health care advocate

It’s important that seniors keep up with preventative care such as recommended health screenings and regular physicals. If they have health concerns, bringing a trusted friend or loved one to the appointment can be very helpful.

“It’s so important for a patient to understand what the doctor says,” Radwanski said. “Often, a patient won’t fully digest what the doctor’s saying. I advise seniors to have someone else at the appointment with a pen and paper to write everything down and make sure there’s appropriate follow-up.”

Seniors may be concerned that by bringing a loved one or trusted friend with them to their appointments, they’re giving away control of their medical care. That won’t happen, Radwanski said.

“There are policies and laws to prevent that. Of course, you should choose someone you can trust and who has your best interest in mind, but they can’t just step in and make decisions for you,” she said.

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