Learning to manage one’s own health is an important skill to develop during the transition to adult care. It is a good idea to teach teens to play active roles in their own health. They should learn to manage their own needs, as well as how to navigate the health system.
How do you address learning about your own health needs? Teens should be encouraged to ask questions. Parents and the health care team can help them learn how to explain what their medical conditions are, what their medicines do, how they can tell if the medicine is working, how they can recognize when they are getting ill, and more.
Parents and caregivers should encourage their children to speak up about their own care:
- Encourage your child to share how they are feeling
- Permit your child to answer or ask questions at a visit
- As they become teens, provide the opportunity to see the doctor alone for at least part of the visit
- Try having a teen call the pharmacy to get a refill or call the office to make an appointment
- Help a teen create a plan to remember their care needs—to take their own medicine, use a pill box or a reminder alarm on their clock or cell phone. Use a calendar for appointments.
Teens should learn about their own health and family history. Teens should also know how to find their immunization records. One step for teens is to begin carrying their medical information. They may need their insurance card, a list of medications and allergies, phone numbers of current providers and an ID card. The pediatric team, as well as parents and caregivers, can help teens with these tasks.
Navigating health systems can be complex. When setting appointments, filling prescriptions or having conversations with their team, teens may find barriers to getting what they need. They should have the opportunity to practice, speak up, listen and ask questions.
Using Support Systems
When teens want to take good care of themselves, they might not always be completely successful. Even well-intentioned adults don’t always do all the right things when taking care of their own health. The teen years are a good time to promote practice in self-care, while also providing a safety net of support from the parents and caregivers. Reminder systems can be a helpful way to keep a teen on track, without having to play the role of the “nagging” parent.
As adults, we need others to be part of our lives. “Interdependence” is a good word to teach teens. In adult life, we help each other. Sometimes we give help and sometimes we get help. A young adult might choose to have a friend or family member provide some extra support. When teens can recognize they need help in a situation, they are showing that they are in control and acting in a mature way. With growth, the conversation can go from the teen being told, “Do this, because I said so” to the teen saying, “I want to do this, but I need a little extra help.”
The health care system can also pay attention to the special needs of teens and young adults. As they try out their skills in caring for themselves, they might still need a little extra guidance and support from the members of their medical neighborhood.
IU Health’s patient portal, My IU Health, is a simple and secure service that gives convenient access to online billing and medical records. It also provides access to online scheduling, billing resources and a list of current prescriptions.
Visit the trusted websites and resources below for more resources on self-management of healthcare needs:
- Transition Readiness Assessment. This assessment from Got Transition helps teens understand how much they know about their healthcare and what they still need to learn more about.
- 10 Questions You Should Know. Here’s a list of good questions to ask a provider from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.