10 Steps To Becoming An Empowered Patient
Being diagnosed with any chronic condition is overwhelming in itself. Being diagnosed with IBD is especially hard because there are many topics related to our condition that even doctors disagree on. IE: Diets and dietary restrictions, IBD status after colectomy, when to recommend biologics, ect. Even a conversation between a GI vs an IBD specialist can be very different.
If you’re newly diagnosed, hearing the term “empowered patient” can be very intimidating. I know it was for me. I felt like I didn’t know enough. I didn’t have the knowledge I needed to be empowered. I always thought about everything I wasn’t. I never considered everything I already am, everything I already know. Even if you’re not newly diagnosed, maybe you’ve had IBD for years now and you’re just ready to take control of your health/care. This is for you!
How To Become An Empowered Patient
- Give yourself some credit: As I mentioned, I didn’t know everything when I decided to take control of my health / healthcare. I still don’t know everything. That’s okay. If we knew everything we wouldn’t need to be empowered patients, we’d be cured! Cut yourself some slack and accept that no one knows everything.
- Do your own research: What you don’t know, ask. What you want more information on, research. Don’t be afraid to do your own research. Remember, not everything online is credible so always fact check and circle back with your physician or a healthcare professional for confirmation.
- Take it one step at a time: Don’t let information overwhelm you. Take your condition just as you take (on) life: one day at a time. Make it plan, set goals, don’t be in a rush and remember to give yourself a break when needed.
- Find a doctor you’re comfortable with: Of course with insurance and healthcare changing so much and so often, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is necessary. Be sure to find a doctor that you’re comfortable with and confident in. IBD takes a team and you want to make sure you have the right one standing behind you!
- Make the call: If you can’t find what (information) or who (ie: specialists) you need, call your insurance provider. If they can’t help, call / visit other useful IBD resources like the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.
- Rest: Maybe this should have been number one because it is SO important! Allow yourself time to rest. Don’t worry about coming up with an excuse or being embarrassed, if you need a break, TAKE A BREAK.
- Get to know your body: Now that you’ve been diagnosed with IBD you want to pay close attention to your body and the signs it may be showing you. It’s important to get to know your body to understand when it’s time to rest, foods that don’t agree with you, things you cannot tolerate, ect.
- Don’t dwell on the downfalls: Yes, you have IBD. Yes it is hard and some days are easier than others, but you have to remember that you still have a life to live. Don’t get too caught up in the bad, remember there is always at least one reason to smile!
- Get a second opinion: For whatever it may be, whether it’s a recommended medication or surgery. While not always necessary, if you are not confident in your treatment plan, I highly encourage you to get a second opinion.
- Remember who you are: Don’t let anything or anyone ever take away the person you are. You are much more than IBD.