If you – or a loved one – suffers from multiple health problems, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, more than half of adults in the U.S. have at least 1 of 10 chronic medical conditions — including arthritis, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, current asthma, diabetes, hepatitis, hypertension, stroke, and weak or failing kidneys. More than one-fourth – 27.2 percent of US adults have multiple chronic conditions. And more than 63 percent of all U.S. adults 65 years of age and older have more than one chronic condition.
Those experiencing more than one chronic health issue – known as “multiple morbidity” – know how challenging it can be to coordinate care between several health care providers and manage medications to ensure that you won’t have any dangerous interactions. These issues are in addition to dealing with the cost, social impacts, pain and potential disability as well.
The American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation offers six tips for working with your healthcare provider(s) when you have multiple chronic health problems.
Arm yourself with information about treatment options. Work with your individual healthcare providers to discuss various treatments and implement the optimal plan. Take an active role in deciding the care you’d like. Consider involving loved ones in your care decisions, including a spouse, children and other family members or friends. Be sure to speak with your providers if you have questions or concerns, or if you have any suggestions.
Weigh the trade-offs between treatment benefits and risks. Talk with your medical team about the potential benefits of each treatment. Make sure to cover the possible drawbacks and side effects, which may include increased risks of disability and new health issues. Then, you can decide the best options.
Communicate your priorities. First, decide on your preferred treatment outcomes. These may include remaining independent and self-sufficient, so you may want your treatment to have few side effects. Speak with your healthcare provider about your preferences, and ask about how different treatments will affect your quality of life.
Provide feedback on your treatments. Your healthcare providers may have many years of training and experience, but you are the expert on your own body. Let your providers know immediately if the prescribed treatment isn’t working as anticipated or if you experience unpleasant side effects.
Alert your healthcare provider if your treatment plan is too complicated to follow. Studies have shown that the more complicated treatment instructions are, the less likely patients are to follow them. Contact your medical team if you are having trouble following the plans, and ask them to work with you to clarify the instructions. You can take some measures to reduce complexity on your own, too. Opting for a pill pack pharmacy such as PersonalRX, which works with your healthcare providers to create and deliver medication dose packs with clear instructions can greatly simplify a challenging prescription medication plan.
Consider non-medication treatments. Your medical team may be able to recommend treatments that don’t involve medication – or the associated risks of side effects or drug interactions. Ask about these options, which may involve exercise or home remedies to alleviate some symptoms.