Is self-care the new healthcare?

Being a team member.

Self care word cloud
Photo by via Flickr

You may not realize this, but you are an important part of your healthcare team when you are diagnosed with diabetes or other chronic conditions. It takes a team of people to supply quality healthcare, but it also takes you practicing self-care to live a healthier life.

In today’s complicated and ever-changing view of healthcare, one thing is clear: we need to understand how self-care (self-management) helps us achieve better health. The research-based Chronic Disease Self-Management Program lists “working with providers” as one of the tools in the self-management toolbox. Patients benefit from a collaborative healthcare and self-care approach to achieve quality care.

Tips towards better self-care

  • One of the best steps in self-care is to include a team approach. Widen your care circle of healthcare providers to include social workers, physical therapists, dentists, home care nurses, dietitians, and physician assistants when appropriate. These professionals can help you with your self-management.
  • Find support and do not go it alone. Self-care is not a singular approach; it is about boosting your care circle. For those living with chronic conditions, teaming up with your provider and all the support services they offer is one of the best ways to keep your condition managed. Family and friends can also play an important role in your self-care.
  • Self-care includes smart communication. Stay compliant with your healthcare team’s directives. Report back any concerns, new symptoms, and if something did or did not work for you.
  • Keep and maintain your healthcare appointments. Use your primary physician’s office instead of emergency room visits when possible.
  • Self-care includes lifestyle adaptions like physical and mental practices. Daily physical activity, good nutrition and mindfulness support better health.
  • You cannot be your own best health expert if you do not know your numbers. Get annual exams to find out your A1c, Body Mass Index (BMI), cholesterol, lipids, and other common panel screenings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Include healthcare for better self-care

  • Sign up for electronic health records. This is a new and growing option for better care information. Many providers utilize this approach making it easier to communicate.
  • If you need to enhance your care support, ask your healthcare provider about including registered dietitians, care managers and diabetes educators.
  • Practice good mental health. Familiarize yourself with mental health services and options at work or in your community. If this is new to you, start at your comfort level. Options are numerous.

Self-care means you are actively managing your health condition. As we experience changes in our health over time, our responsibility for self-care is imperative. The best way to achieve optimum self-care is not to do it alone. Widen your circle of support by incorporating healthcare professionals, community partners, family, and friends.

The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program provides tools that can help you achieve better self-care when living with a chronic condition. Michigan State University Extension offers these self-management workshops online and face-to-face in communities throughout Michigan. For more information on chronic illness and self-management, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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