American healthcare is moving towards a “help yourself” mentality that encourages everyone– even seniors– to become proactive about their own health.
The new age of healthcare that has followed the Affordable Care Act has placed much of the responsibility on the individual to keep his body in the best physical shape possible so that he may avoid chronic or fatal illnesses during his senior life. In response to this, many hospitals and other care providers have initiated prevention and wellness programs to help patients become proactive about their health.
The direction of these prevention and wellness initiatives has been guided by a number of factors within the American healthcare system.
1. The prevalence of chronic diseases is increasing in the United States.
Chronic illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than a trillion dollars a year, according to the Milliken Institute Study. Prevention and wellness improves the health of all Americans, enhances the quality of care each American receives and reduces costs for everyone.
For older adults, two of the major obstacles to a better senior lifestyle are obesity and inactivity-- which can lead to a whole host of debilitating age-related conditions. Being overweight and sedentary increases your risk for diabetes, heart problems, among other chronic conditions.
2. People have trouble communicating with their doctors.
According to the Center for Advanced Health, only about half of all Medicare participants bring a list of questions to ask their doctors during appointments. About 60 percent of patients do not tell their doctors about drug allergies unless specifically asked. Approximately two in five bring a list of the medications they are taking-- which means that 25 percent of patients never bring a medications list, increasing their chances for dangerous drug interactions.
This lack of communication leaves health outcomes with much to be desired.
About one-third of patients over the age of 44 suffering from one or more chronic conditions say they sometimes leave the doctor office feeling confused about what they are supposed to do.
3. Many people are reactive to their own healthcare rather than proactive.
Many seniors are lackadaisical about their health, taking action in the nick of time, only after an illness occurs or seems imminent.
One internet survey mentioned by the Center for Advanced Health demonstrates just how reactive most patients are: 90 percent of respondents in that survey said they would become active in improving their own health if they were diagnosed with a chronic illness. Taking control of one’s own health only after an illness occurs is much too late to improve health during senior life.
How to Have a Better Senior Life through a Proactive Approach to Healthcare
You can enjoy a better lifestyle in your senior years by adopting a proactive approach to your own healthcare today. You could, for example, start by
- Work on your health literacy. Learn everything you can about good health, nutrition, proper exercise and information about common illnesses.Educate yourself before you become sick so you can learn symptoms and preventative strategies.
- See your doctor regularly. Bring a list of questions to ask and write down the answers. Ask a friend or family member to come with you if you tend to feel confused or overwhelmed during doctor appointments. You may also want to start keeping your own copy of your medical records which would help every doctor you see understand your complete health history, including chronic illnesses, allergies to medicines and complications during previous treatments.
- Adopt healthy habits. Eat low-calorie, nutritious meals and exercise regularly to keep your weight under control. Stop using tobacco and keep drinking alcohol in moderation, if you drink at all. Reduce stress and increase social interaction to improve your mental, emotional and social well-being. Proper nutrition, physical activity, a healthy lifestyle and slim waistline reduces your risk for developing many chronic illnesses common today, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
You can improve your own health and the quality of healthcare you receive by adopting a proactive attitude about your health. Learn about your body and the illnesses that can affect you. Start communicating with your doctor as an informed patient so that you can get the most out of the healthcare she provides. Become proactive about your health today to have a better senior life tomorrow.