Advocating for yourself with a healthcare provider (or multiple) can be difficult for many reasons when you’re living with a disability. Not only is it often stressful to keep up with all the information you’re being given during visits, but it can also feel strange to challenge a medical professional even if you feel you’re in the right. Just remember that there are several ways you can advocate for your own needs without creating tension with your providers, such as thoroughly researching your health insurance plan so you understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t. You can also do some reading about common issues that individuals who are living with a disability have with their healthcare providers and insurance companies.
Here are a few easy ways you can champion your own rights and make sure your doctors are listening to your concerns:
Keep immaculate records
Living with a disability often means multiple doctor visits throughout the year, which means you’ll be dealing with a lot of information at once. It can be stressful to keep up with it all, especially if you’re navigating multiple health issues. Keeping neat and organized records is crucial, not just for you but also for your doctor’s benefit, since mistakes can sometimes be made on their end. Gather all documents related to your medical information, including proof of bill payments, copies of your insurance card, and any notes you’ve taken during visits. Rather than keeping this information in separate documents, you can put together a single file and use an online tool to insert pages to a PDF online for free, which is a secure and easy way to keep track of data as it accumulates. You can also record your visits and type up relevant info later.
Get comfortable with saying no
It’s not always easy to learn to say “no”, especially when the request is coming from a doctor, but if your provider is suggesting a treatment or medication that you aren’t comfortable with, it’s imperative to feel comfortable in your own choices. Keep in mind that saying no doesn’t automatically correlate with being rude; you can decline and ask for another option without creating tension, and it’s within your rights to do so. You can also choose to seek a second opinion from another healthcare provider. This is another great reason to keep detailed records of your visits and prescribed medications.
Stay on top of your overall wellbeing
While learning to say no is an important aspect of self-advocacy, it’s also important to speak up about what your specific needs are, especially if they begin to change. Living with a disability may require a certain type of care, but if you’re also dealing with mental health or addiction issues, your doctor needs to know exactly what you’re experiencing in order to properly diagnose and treat it. You can stay on top of your overall wellness by sticking to a healthy diet and exercise routine, reducing stress, and taking any medication as prescribed.
Know your rights and options
It’s much easier to take care of your mental and physical health when you understand your rights and options where your living and medical situations are concerned. Know the laws in regards to reasonable accommodations from your landlord and employer, and do some research on home modifications and the equipment you use so you can be prepared should a legal issue arise. Being prepared is the best way to ensure that your health is a priority no matter where you are.
Learning to advocate on your own behalf can be daunting, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. It can be helpful to look for online resources when doing research; you can also ask a close friend or loved one to help you at doctor visits by taking notes or simply being a second pair of ears.
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