HELP LINE: It’s time to think about taking steps to avoid health care

I TALK TO a lot of doctors, surgeons, nurses, ARNPs, physician assistants, therapists, health care administrators, etc. Some of them even talk back.

So, on the rare occasion that one of these interludes degenerates into an actual conversation, we often end up talking about … that’s right: Health care. How much it costs, why, where to get it, how to know if you’ve found it, why so many people need so much of it in the first place and how to avoid it. Yes, how to avoid it.

Wouldn’t you rather avoid needing health care if you could? I mean, needing health care often means that something is, or certainly could be, wrong and most of us would prefer to avoid having something be wrong.

I would.

I think a lot of us see health care as something that’s done to us: Something is, or seems to be, wrong so we have to go there to get that something fixed.

Well, OK, maybe it’s here and there, then back to there three or four times, before we’re sent to hither, and soon to yon. And in all these places there are highly trained and (presumably) highly paid professionals who are doing things to us.

Oh, sure, as we’re being shuttled out of a door, someone might tell us to go home and do this or that, or stop doing this or that, or a little more of this and a lot less of that, or whatever, but those bits of homework are afterthoughts. They’re little things that are thrown out to us after health care has been delivered to us.

Then, we go home.

So, as I’m having these little highly condensed, conversational tidbits with pros, in which I listen a lot, after a few years even I can’t help but notice that I’m hearing the same things over and over and over again from them. I’m hearing the things we ought to do (and could do) to avoid needing health care, and it’s the same stuff, with diet and exercise topping the list.

I know: Many of you just groaned. I get that.

You’re thinking, “Oh, great! Here we go with this again. I’m heading for the crossword puzzle.”

But wait!

I said, “I get that,” and I really do.

Most of us are just trying to get from one day to the next, trying to wring some joy out of this 2019 life-thing, and we’ve done the best we could with what we have for a whole lot of years. Now everybody wants to make us into …

Uh-huh, everybody wants to make us into one of the pictures we see in our minds: Maybe it’s Jack LaLane or somebody a lot like him. Or maybe it’s one of those pencil-thin women who only eat green stuff, drive Subarus and run 11 miles every morning before yoga. Or a weightlifter, a food alien or something else.

Those pictures aren’t usually pretty (at least, for us), so because most of us will never be the type that is so skinny we don’t even have a shadow while we’re running marathons, we just do nothing.

And changing how we live is a lot of work.

I have to go from being what I am (well, OK, who I am) to being something or somebody else.

I have to change everything completely.

I have to give up everything I love, start eating everything I hate and start doing things that hurt, and I hate, so I can live longer.

Who wants to live longer if it’s just full of eating things and doing things I hate?

See? I told you I get it.

Here’s my thing that you’ve heard before: Most of us aren’t looking to live forever — we just want to live until it’s time to do something else.

Live as in have a life and it’s a lot harder to do that when a lot of your life is spent ricocheting from here to there, being on the receiving end of health care.

Quite a while back, Medicare added coverage for preventive services to reduce obesity, which means no cost-sharing.

I’m not going to get all into the insurance details of that coverage, because I think I’ve got you sideways enough for one day, but the bottom line is that you can talk to your doctor (or whomever you see) about getting some help with the weight thing, and she or he can provide some counseling, some recommendations, some referrals, some encouragement and actually get paid for doing it.

This is doable.

And here’s something else you’ll discover: Most health care professionals aren’t wild-eyed fanatics who are going to try to turn you into somebody you’re not.

Most of them are pretty realistic and pretty down-to-Earth, because that’s where they live, too.

So, forget about diet, forget about exercise and forget about those pictures you see in your head when somebody talks about this stuff, and just think about your life.

Would you like to have more of it?

You’d be surprised by how little you have to do to do that, and this is doable.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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