Independence is one of the defining aspects of adulthood. Adults have to provide for themselves, make their own appointments, pay bills and advocate for themselves, as well as making lots of decisions for themselves every day.
During adolescence, you will learn the skills needed to help you manage aspects of your daily life, as well as your health care. As a young person with a chronic illness you may have more responsibilities than most people your age. Understanding that sometimes, multiple aspects of your health care can seem daunting, however developing the skills that you need over time will increase your ability to manage your healthcare with confidence.
You and your doctor
One important area of independence is developing the skills and confidence to talk to your doctor and your health care team on your own. This helps you to understand and manage your condition and to take more responsibility for your health. Being able to raise and discuss issues directly with your doctor and health care team will help you to understand your treatments and to put them into action. You may like to start by seeing the doctor on your own for part of the consultation and then take the responsibility of updating your parents on any changes to your treatment plan.
It is also helpful to know your rights when it comes to your health care. As a young person you will have different rights than as a young child, particularly around consent and confidentiality.
You and your parents/carers
Negotiating your independence is a normal part of adolescence. As your parents/carers have been very involved with your care over many years, you will need to work with them to learn their tips and strategies in managing your health. You can then step up to responsibly manage your health and other aspects of your life too.
Learning to advocate for yourself
To ‘advocate for yourself’ means knowing how to look after or support your own interests. This may also mean developing the confidence and skills to know how and when to speak up.
Advocating for yourself is helpful especially as you become older and start making decisions.
This is an important skill as once you reach adult health care services, the majority of questions will be directed to you. Having the confidence to speak to your new health care team and telling them about your medical needs will help to make sure that you are making the most of your appointments.
Medications and treatments
Learning to be responsible for your own medications or treatments is an important part of being more independent with your health care. Know the name of your medications or treatments, why you need them, and how much you need, and start taking or administering your medications/treatments without a reminder from your parents.
It is also very important to know when, where and how to get a prescription, especially when you are starting to run low on your medications. Know how to fill a prescription at the hospital or your local pharmacy as there may be some medications that you need to collect at your hospital due to particular requirements. If you are unsure if this applies to the medications that you take, then ask your medical team at your next visit.
Adolescence and your condition
It is important that you know about your medical condition and the tests that you need to have regularly or intermittently, why and the results of these tests.
Adolescence is about choices and understanding the risks associated with some of those choices. For example, understanding the effects of recreational drugs, alcohol or smoking on your health and wellbeing will be important to understand, as it will keep you informed about your choices as you take charge of your own health care.
Discuss these issues and other topics which are important to you, such as your sexual health and wellbeing, with your health care team as they will be able to give you some helpful hints and advice that is specific to your individual health care needs.
Medicare and health insurance
You can apply for your own Medicare card from age 16, as this will help you to claim many benefits in the health care system such as free hospitalisation in the public setting and enable you to attend your own appointments with your doctors.
It is also good to be aware of the benefits that private health insurance provide so you can decide whether it is helpful for you to have this extra level of health cover. There are many different private health insurance companies and different levels of cover, so it’s best to do your research and compare costs and know what they will and won’t cover.
All public clinics and hospitals are covered by Medicare.
Private healthcare services may also be accessed if you don’t have private health insurance as some of these costs are able to be covered through Medicare, however you will have an out-of-pocket expense which you will have to pay.
Private health insurance can also help you to cover the cost of care in a private hospital, some allied health services and some medications or treatments.
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