While preparing this article, my teenage son asked why I was writing about a medical topic when I'm not a doctor. And isn't that just the point... most of us are not doctors, but we must use our voices when it comes to our own healthcare and that of our loved ones.

Self advocacy is essential.  While medicines and medical treatments are prescribed by skilled advisors, you must decide what is right for you. The following are a few suggested ways you can become your own best advocate:

1) Research - The internet provides opportunities to learn about medical matters.  Some well-respected and trustworthy sites are: health.nih.gov (National Institutes of Health), mayoclinic.com (Mayo Clinic) and the websites of organizations focusing on specific diseases such as alz.org (Alzheimer's Foundation). These websites provide information and identify resources and support that are empowering.

2) Ask questions - Many people leave their doctors' offices with worrisome unanswered questions. Prepare a list for your appointment and take notes during your visit. If other questions arise, make a follow-up call.

3) Ask for support – Not everyone is great at advocating for themselves. If you are one of them, ask a family member, friend or professional, such as a geriatric care manager, to accompany you to medical visits or to make phone calls on your behalf. You guide what they ask, and they provide you with all the information given. You make the ultimate decision and can ask for their input if you wish.

4) Allow your value system to guide you - If you believe in alternative medical treatments such as acupuncture, look into those options. If you want all measures taken to save your life, be sure that is known. Documents, such as advance directives and powers of attorney, allow you to put your preferences on paper and to choose a trusted surrogate to make decisions for you should you become unable to make them yourself.

Informed decisions are always the best decisions. Putting in the effort to educate yourself is well worth the time it takes.  

Article written by Fifty Forward.