There are plenty of “survivalists” out there who stock their basements with canned goods, getting ready for some unexpected (and unlikely) apocalypse. Meanwhile there are things that are much more likely to happen to you — like getting sick — which many of us don’t prepare for at all. So to help you get started, here are five important tips on how you can become a healthcare survivalist:
1. Take care of your chronic conditions. Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, asthma or any other kind of ailment, do what it takes to manage your own care. Take your medications and follow your doctors’ instructions. Why? Because if you don’t, your condition can get worse and lead to even more serious problems. As much of a pain as it may (literally) be, there’s a reason the old saying “an ounce of prevention” still resonates today — because it’s true.
2. Live a healthy lifestyle. Everyone gives you this advice, but with studies showing that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2050, it doesn’t seem to be getting through. Denial can wonderfully appealing; but when it comes to your health, it can also kill you. Stop smoking, exercise, and eat right. You may find that your employer has programs in place that will help you do all of those things, and many of them work. Why not give one of them a try? You can’t improve your life all at once, but you can start. Your life will be happier if you keep yourself healthy. So rather than whistling past the graveyard, jog past it.
3. Make sure you are well-insured. You may not have the greatest insurance plan through your job, but there are things you can do to protect yourself on your own. For example, most insurance doesn’t pay the full cost of long term care. This is the kind of care you might need if you end up needing home nursing care or have to live in an assisted living facility. That can be very costly. You should buy long-term care insurance to cover these expenses and serve as a cornerstone of your health care survival plan. Studies show that 60% of seniors will need long-term care at some point in their lives — and Medicare doesn’t cover it. Oh, and it’s not just a problem of the elderly. About 40% of people getting long-term care are between 18 and 64.
There are other kinds of insurance you can buy, too, depending on the state in which you live. These might be plans that supplement your health coverage, or cover other expenses of illness. The best advice: Research your options, find an insurance broker you trust, and figure out a plan that helps protect you from the financial toll of illness. Also keep in mind that your employer may offer, on a voluntary basis, a number of these kinds of programs at cheap prices — check them out and see if they make sense for you.
4. Know your family history. It’s a little hard to believe in the 21st century, but it turns out that an old-fashioned knowledge of your family’s medical history can be some of your best protection. It can help your doctor know whether you have a higher risk for certain illnesses. And it can also help him or her know whether that symptom you’re complaining about is a sign of something other than what it seems to be. A surprising study recently showed that a family history can be better than even genetic testing at predicting your likelihood of disease. The Surgeon General has a neat tool that can help you get started. The more you know about your family’s medical past, the better off you and your doctors will be in your medical future.
5. Ask Questions. No matter how well you prepare and try to protect yourself, at some point you may still end up seriously ill. Hopefully, if you’ve taken good care of yourself and have all of your information in order, you’ve put yourself in the best position to make it through. But there’s still so much more you can and should do. The world is full of well-intentioned, highly skilled, and hardworking doctors. The trouble is, they work in a system that makes it very difficult for them to do their jobs. So, ask questions, and use every resource available to you to make sure you’re getting the right medical care.
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*