Dads, when was the last time you scheduled a physical for yourself or took your child to their doctor appointment?
If you can’t remember, or you can remember but just realized it was a long time ago, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. It has been reported that women make roughly 80% of the healthcare decisions for their families. Speculations on the reasoning for this abound and this isn’t the venue for that discussion, and regardless of the reasons, the takeaway is that there’s a lot of opportunity for dads to empower themselves and their families through informed healthcare decision making. How do you do this? That’s the million dollar question! Below, we discuss some tips for helping your family make informed healthcare decisions.
Even if your significant other is the one actually setting the appointment time, attend whenever you can. Having a second set of ears will be helpful - your significant other won’t have to remember every detail of the appointment and try to relay them to you so you can make important decisions together. You’ll be there, hearing the same things as them, and you can both have an informed discussion on a level playing field when it’s decision-making time. Additionally, if it’s a difficult appointment (serious diagnosis, concern about healthcare decisions being respected, etc) simply your presence will be empowering as your family will be able to truly feel that you are “in their corner” so to speak.
While you’re at appointments, ask questions that come to your mind. Don’t worry about sounding silly or uninformed. Unless your career is in healthcare, no one expects you to understand much of what’s going on…just like someone who’s career isn’t in finance isn’t expected to understand all the details their financial planner should know. If nothing else, asking questions will show your genuine interest and desire to understand and take an active role in your family’s health and wellbeing. Your healthcare provider’s job is to explain things so that you can understand them enough to make an informed decision. If something doesn’t make sense, don't push that nagging thought aside - ask until you’re satisfied with your understanding.
Read health-related articles. Read abstracts of research articles - it’s less time-intensive than trying to digest the whole article and generally doesn’t require a major in statistics to understand. Talk with friends who are in the healthcare field. They forget that not everyone knows the things they know…ask them questions you’ve always wanted to know the answer to. Trust me - they’ll love to have the chance to share their knowledge in a relaxed and informal setting without being met with eyes that glaze over after their third sentence!
Determine Your Family’s Health Priorities and Goals.
Health is part “survive” and part “thrive.” “Survive” is the broken arms, the strep throat, the allergies. Things that your partner is likely already handling (refer to the 80% above). “Thrive” is things like family triathlons, community gardens, and being fit enough to go rock climbing on vacation. If your partner happily has “survive” under control, consider taking charge of “thrive.” Assess your family’s current status and help them reach their goals. Everyone hates running but you live on a lake? Skip the triathlon and start rowing! The kids don’t like team sports? Get bikes for the family and hit the trails! Your partner does yoga three times per week? Hit the basketball court or golf course with your friends!