Excellent question! First, for anyone who isn’t sure what a chronic disease is, it’s an ongoing illness that can cause limitations and greatly affect a person’s life. Some examples of chronic diseases are heart disease (such as Congestive Heart Failure or Coronary Artery Disease), stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, hypertension, depression and metabolic syndrome.
If you have a chronic condition, it’s very important that you take steps to manage it. This includes keeping up with checkups, screenings, and other doctor appointments; maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy diet, getting the recommended amount of exercise, and not using tobacco products; keeping stress in check; and following your doctor’s recommendations.
If you’re not used to doing all of those things, it could feel daunting to begin them all at once. Luckily, you don’t have to handle your disease alone–a health advocate can help you. A friend or family member might be able to serve as an advocate, or you may be able to call upon a professional advocacy service for assistance. Depending on the type of advocate you choose (loved one or professional), your advocate may be able to help you manage your chronic disease in the following ways:
- Help you find the right in-network doctors and make the appointments for you
- Remind you of important appointments, screenings, and more
- Accompany you to appointments to help you take notes and ask questions
- Help you learn new skills and strategies to help you control your condition more effectively
- Help you research treatment options
- Assist you in understanding your condition, treatment plan and any medications
- Help identify your risk for complications
- Clarify your insurance coverage so that you understand what services are and are not covered
- Help you handle any billing issues, such as claim denials, and negotiate with medical providers if needed
- Double-check your Explanations of Benefits (EOBs) to ensure there are no errors
- Help take your mind off your condition when you’re feeling stressed or anxious
- Support you as you strive to reach healthy goals, like stopping smoking or starting to exercise
- Help you with cooking, chores, and errands if your disease has left you feeling too tired or ill to take these tasks on yourself
- Listen to you if you’re feeling down and need to talk
- Help you research your condition and find reliable resources and/or support groups
Remember, you don’t have to manage your disease alone. Enlisting an advocate’s help can allow you to not only stay healthier, but also happier!
Want to learn more about how a health advocate can help you? Email me your questions: email@example.com. Your question may be featured in an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!