Practice What You Preach…GO TO THE DOCTOR!
This week, I have crammed all of my health maintenance visits into 3 days. Eye doctor, mammogram, bloodwork, primary care visit, all of it. I can’t really give myself a medal though because I’m going on the record here and admitting that it’s been AWHILE since I’ve done all this preventive care. I have no good reason other than overcoming inertia. I don’t find mammograms to be miserable, and I’m not averse to going to see doctors, which I know many people are, including physicians. (I always find it sort of funny that people can BE doctors but don’t want to go SEE one.) I guess life has just gotten in the way for me.
SO, DO NOT BE LIKE ME.
But are you? Are you good about going to the doctor for yourself? I’m a little disappointed in myself right now as a physician and as a human being. I am solid about my kids’ pediatrician visits—we hit them all, including the ones without immunizations where you get those equally important but less dramatic vital sign checks and weigh-ins. But I am TERRIBLE about getting my own blood pressure checked.
I bring this up today because I’m guessing I’m not alone. In thinking about why people don’t go to the doctor, there are many reasons—
Financial– Is it affordable?
Access– How do I find the right doctor?
Awareness– Is that slightly bothersome symptom actually a sign of something serious?
Fear/denial– I just don’t want to deal with it and refuse to think something could be wrong.
Organization– I meant to schedule an appointment, but it just got lost in the day to day shuffle.
This is a huge topic, and likely one with no single answer. Regardless, I know so many people who are well insured, can fork over the co-pay, have decent common sense and their life pretty much squared away, BUT they aren’t getting the checkups that they need.
Do you think that in this digital era people put off seeking medical care because they can just attempt self-care — call a friend, go to the internet, etc.? I’m guessing there’s a lot of this. I know the current healthcare system can be tricky to navigate, and in many practices patients see a different physician every time they visit, which turns a lot of people off. It can feel like an assembly line and the chance to really develop a good doctor-patient relationship is limited. People are so pressed with jam-packed schedules that it can be near impossible to squeeze a doctor visit into an already crowded workday. No to mention that many practices aren’t open after-hours, so even if the desire is there, the logistics often aren’t. Can you relate to any of this?
Help yourself before helping others
These are all real issues and obstacles and the subject of many well-written articles, but I want us all to take a moment and recall that line in the airline safety speech where you are reminded to adjust your own oxygen mask before assisting others. As parents of young children we need to be clear on the fact that we can’t be who our kids need us to be if we aren’t at our optimal health, and this is my primary driver for the lofty, preachy blog today. I promise you it’s rooted in practicality: we all know it’s less time, less money, less thrash to pay attention to and identify the vast majority of health problems early. Plus, you’ll feel better both physically AND mentally, and morally victorious for being organized enough just to FIT IT IN.
I’ll feel like this writing exercise is a #WIN if I can encourage/inspire/motivate ONE PERSON to get on the phone and schedule a healthcare appointment NOT for anyone other than THEMSELVES. We all want to survive and thrive and watch our kids grow up, and step ONE is caring for our own needs to make sure that the right path is set for this to happen. Even if that means that it’s unclear how all the work will get done, if dinner will be made, the laundry folded, and the homework checked — which is my story this week! Give yourself a pass to take care of YOU. Those around you will think it’s worth it, and so will you.
Click on this link for a comprehensive preventive healthcare schedule for adults. The helpful table is at the end of the article.