Self-Advocacy for Optimal Diabetes Care: Playing Your Part and Speaking Up
We’ve all been there. You go to medical appointments, have a rushed visit with your provider, get some feedback and instructions, then only after you’ve left do you remember questions, think of concerns, or even forget key takeaways.
How to self-advocate with health care providers
When it comes to your health and diabetes, advocating for yourself is an important part of critical self-management skills that include decision-making, goal-setting, self-monitoring, and problem-solving.
Consider some of the following points to better advocate for yourself in conversations with healthcare professionals.
Don’t forget your role
Remember that YOU are the most important part of your diabetes care team. Not to mention the fact that YOU are the one who lives day to day with this chronic disease. That includes the treatment plan, the medications and side effects, the financial costs, etc.
Be open and honest
Diabetes can be very complex and confusing. In addition, other health care conditions, and the health care system, in general, are very complex. Be open with your health care provider about any areas you are confused about or may need assistance or further education. Your provider may not have all the answers but can point you in the right direction.
Try not to let fear of judgment get in your way. Oftentimes, individuals withhold information out of fear of being judged, especially when it comes to matters of mental health. Other times, individuals may withhold information because they feel it may not be relevant to the matter addressed in the visit. However, many things may be connected that we may not see; sharing can help your provider to connect the dots. And, if it is truly irrelevant to your appointment or condition, your provider can be the one to determine if it is the case.
Ask plenty of questions
Come to appointments prepared with questions. Don’t be afraid to call in between appointments for questions or to clarify recommendations.
If you disagree with your provider’s treatment plan (medications, targets, etc.), verbalize that and your reasons why. Ask them to explain why they recommend what they do. For the most part, providers will better appreciate that you verbalize a disagreement or confusion rather than you not complying with their recommendations, or being left in a state of confusion and frustration. They may also have a suitable alternative in mind that meets both of your needs. You don’t know until you ask.
You are an expert on you
As the patient, you and your provider are in a partnership. And in this partnership, you are going to that person for their services and expertise. But you are an expert on yourself and your situation. The provider doesn’t know all the variables.
In the same way though, you don’t know all they know (unless perhaps you are also a health care provider since diabetes affects them too!), so be considerate of their clinical experience. That said, if you are not confident in their abilities, you may want to consider looking for a new provider.
Please note, that I only advise this after you have put forth the efforts discussed here regarding playing an active role and in your diabetes care and practicing effective communication with your provider. Switching providers can not only be stressful, but can increase the chances of important information about your care falling through the cracks.
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