How are you going to cope? You feel so overwhelmed and now you have to navigate Ontario’s confusing healthcare system on top of it.
That’s exactly the situation I was in several years ago when both my parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I discovered that service in Ontario’s healthcare system is fragmented through transitions from family doctors to specialists, from diagnosis to treatment and from one specialty to another.
No wonder 81% of Canadians find the system too complicated and 78% agree that navigating it is a challenge. Everything is complex, difficult to access and definitely not patient friendly.
Most people rely on family and friends to help, but often they don’t have the time or the know-how.
Here are some of my learnings to help put you in control and make navigating easier and a lot more productive
1. Communication is Key
Make sure you are open and honest with your doctor as well as family and friends about your wants and needs. If they don't know what is important to you it makes their job much more difficult. Develop relationships with your healthcare professionals. You want them to treat you as an individual, not as an OHIP number.
2. Document Everything
Write down the information your healthcare providers give you about your condition or situation and keep records of all your tests, medications, appointments and referrals. It helps you to stay on track and follow up so nothing falls through the cracks.
3. Prepare for the Future
Pre-planning = less stress. Find out ahead of time what resources are available for post-surgery care, managing your chronic disease or how to arrange for home and long-term care.
Ensure you have an up-to-date Power of Attorney (POA) for both personal care and property. You may also want to have a “living will” to ensure your family knows your specific wishes.
4. Inform Yourself
Boost your health literacy skills. Learn about your condition including the treatments and medications being prescribed and all procedures and protocols. Ask questions. Talk to healthcare professionals and health associations and organizations. Conduct research through libraries and the internet.
5. Be an Advocate
You are responsible for your own health so you need to have a voice and stand up for yourself. It’s OK to question, double check and ask for a second opinion.
6. Ask for help
Trying to cope on your own can be very difficult. It’s important to ask for help when you need it. Family and friends are generally your best resource, but don't forget to talk to people who have been in a similar situation.
Feeling like an expert? Maybe not yet, but these tips will give you a head start on sorting through the maze. If you’re still feeling stressed, give me a call to see how I can help. We can chat about your specific situation for 30 minutes (no charge) and I can give you some strategies to support you right now.
I know what you’re going through. I've encountered firsthand the challenge of dealing with a range of chronic diseases and other health crises. My goal is to help others so they don’t have to face what I did.
Share your healthcare navigation experiences with me in the comments section below, and if you like this blog, share it with your friends.