Articulating Your Values
Doctors may see dozens of patients each week, but your needs and values should be the sole priority during your appointment. Being able to clearly articulate those values to your physician will help direct the types of medications and treatment you undergo so that you’re able to live as well as possible.
Here are some things to consider when thinking about your values in order to help better articulate them and get the most of your appointment:
Defining what’s important to you: What are the things in life that make you feel good? What are the things you’re afraid of not being able to do if you’re sick?
If walking to church on Sunday is a priority, being put on a medication that causes dizziness or issues with balance is not right for you, regardless of how effective it might be in reducing other symptoms of your chronic illness or disability. If your doctor is aware of this, they might instead create an exercise and physical therapy plan to keep you strong and help with balance and movement.
Setting goals: What are your goals for the next month? For the next year? If you want to walk up stairs unassisted or complete household tasks independently, telling your doctor this will allow them to create a plan that helps you build up to these milestones.
Aggressive vs. conservative treatment: Some people avoid invasive procedures at all costs, while others are less afraid of radical treatments. If your doctor recommends aggressive treatment, it does not mean you must go through with it if you’re uncomfortable doing so.
Aggressive treatment isn’t always the best approach. A 2008 study from Dartmouth University found patients with serious medical conditions who received more tests and procedures didn’t live longer or enjoy a better quality of life than those who received conservative treatment.
Ask your doctor about alternative/non-medical treatments such as yoga and swimming. These services can not only help with your medical condition overall, but also aid in symptom relief.
Advance directives: Advance directives are a living will that allows you to document your medical wishes concerning medical treatment. They are legally valid throughout the United States, don’t expire and remain in effect until you change them.
By creating an advance directive, you are making your preferences about your medical care known before a worst case scenario with your chronic illness or disability. This will spare loved ones any confusion or stress in making decisions for you if you get sick.
Do you want to be put on a respirator if you stop breathing? Are there any treatments you don’t want or treatments you insist on regardless of your condition? Getting this in writing is necessary so your healthcare team and loved ones are on the same page. If you have a change of heart about anything in your advance directive, you can change it at any time.
Be an active participant: Don’t simply let your doctor or healthcare team make decisions for you about your treatment. Ask questions and speak up if their plan of action makes you uncomfortable. If you think you might benefit from some support (emotionally or otherwise), your doctor can connect to support groups or a therapist who can help you better cope with your medical concerns and how they may affect your life.
Getting the best level of supportive care can’t happen without your participation.