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How to increase your health literacy level

October is Health Literacy Month, a time to look at the importance of being able to understand topics related to your health so you can effectively communicate with health care professionals and make more effective decisions.

However, nearly 36 percent of adults in the United States have low health literacy according to the Center for Health Care Strategies. The low health literacy rate is estimated to cost the U.S. Economy up to $236 billion dollars per year.

Being unable to clearly understand medical instructions and terms can help decrease the risk of medical errors, illness, lost wages and poor overall health.  Here are a few ways you can improve your health literacy.

Identifying the problem

People who have low health literacy may hesitate to ask for help because they are embarrassed by their lack of understanding. One of the signs that you or your loved one is having issues may be missed appointments, especially for follow-up care. Other signs include difficulty explaining medication instructions and the medication’s purpose or trouble recounting one’s medical history. 

Steps to improve medical literacy

1. Ask for help when something isn’t clear. 

If there is a term or condition you don’t understand, ask your doctor or nurse to explain it in another way and whether they have any literature on the topic you can read once you get home. It can be tempting to save your questions for friends, family or online sources. However, the best information is going to come from a medical professional who knows your personal situation.  

2. Understand your medications. 

Ask your doctor what each medication is doing, the correct name and the best time and way to take the medication. If the medication names are difficult, make a list and keep it with you whenever you visit any doctor. There are possible interactions between drugs so your doctor needs to know what medications are being taken. You can also ask your pharmacist to explain the purpose of each medication and review your list of medications for any possible bad interactions.

3. Keep a record of your symptoms and questions. 

You can use a notebook, a memo on your cell phone or a file on your computer. It’s common to forget symptoms or questions between appointments, and keeping a record can help you better monitor your condition and improve communication between you and your doctor.

4. Pay attention to follow-up treatment instructions. 

Health care providers can forget that some people may not be familiar with medical monitors and equipment. For example, if you are being told to check your blood pressure but you don’t know how, be sure to ask. If your doctor’s office does not provide a printout of your treatment plan, take notes so you will remember. Find out who you can call with questions, and do not hesitate to call if you have questions

When extra help is needed

If your health status is medically complex with several different conditions, it may be better to have professional help, especially following a medical event requiring a hospital stay. Staying in a short-term care and rehabilitation center can improve your health literacy since the staff can explain dietary restrictions, effective therapy protocols, proper use of assistive devices and medication routines. Recovering in a short-term care facility can assist in the speed of recovery and help with long-term health. 

Whitehall of Deerfield has earned a reputation for providing care with outstanding outcomes in a resort-like environment. Tastefully appointed rooms, delicious meals served in spacious dining rooms and an impressive array of amenities compliment the top-notch therapy and medical care provided by an attentive staff who are ready to answer all questions and share their tips for better health. After a short stay, patients can return home prepared to resume the best life possible.

Whitehall of Deerfield is ranked among the top 1% of all Illinois post-hospital rehabilitation and nursing care centers by Newsweek — and has consistently received U.S. News & World Report’s highest five-star rating. Learn more about the individualized, one-on-one therapy programs, world-class amenities and COVID-19 safety measures by visiting WhitehallofDeerfield.com or calling 847-945-4600.

300 Waukegan Road Deerfield, IL 60015 | 847.945.4600