Health care is a huge priority for Bethesda Health Group and Next Avenue — always, but especially right now. Specifically, how health care can do a better job serving older Americans, and how older Americans can demand more from their health care.
We know our readers turn to resources, like Next Avenue, for advice on navigating doctor appointments, advocating for loved ones they care for, making end-of-life wishes clear, and more.
I recently produced a Facebook live video Q&A on what is called “age-friendly health care.” One of Next Avenue’s most-esteemed journalists, Liz Seegert, interviewed renowned Stanford Medicine geriatrician Dr. VJ Periyakoil who shared her advice on getting the best care possible.
“What can be more important than your health and your care?” Periyakoil said during our conversation. “If you’re not going to advocate for yourself, and your family isn’t going to advocate for you, who is going to do it? Yes, it is difficult. But it is too important not to do.”
Resources for Your Next Doctor Appointment
Periyakoil pointed to a number of indispensable resources that we wanted to make as easy-as-possible to find.
Health Care Self-Advocacy Letter
The first is the “What Matters Most” letter for patients, which is available in eight languages to download and print or to write online and then save and print.
The “What Matters Most” letter, Periyakoil said, is “intended to help people from various backgrounds write a simple letter to their doctor and their loved ones and about their values and life goals.”
“Have the letter in your hand with a copy for your doctor, and say, ‘Hey doctor, can you read this letter?’ This summarizes all of the things I care about,” Periyakoil said.
Your Bucket List for Health Care
She also mentioned using a bucket-list framework for health care to think about what matters to you in a different or additional way. Every year on January 1, Periyakoil makes her own bucket list of things she wants to accomplish in the upcoming year generally. Knowing them allows her to structure her health and care and talk to her family.
“Bucket lists are about life and living in a very deliberate fashion,” she said.
Preparing Advance Directives
Stanford Medicine also has a free letter format for advance directives, which Periyakoil spoke about in the Q&A. Advance directives are legal documents that explain how you want medical decisions made if you’re too ill to speak for yourself. They can be daunting and complicated, but Periyakoil and Stanford Medicine created a simple form with a step-by-step process for creating and distributing them to the appropriate people.
Find more Doctor’s Appointment tips and senior health & wellness articles on Bethesda’s blog.
(Editor’s note: This story is part of a series for The John A. Hartford Foundation.)
By Grace Birnstengel for Next Avenue.
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