Learning you've been diagnosed with a medical condition can put you on an emotional roller coaster. It can be shocking. It can be scary. And often, it's life-changing — for you and your loved ones.
"[A diagnosis like cancer] doesn't just affect the patient, it ripples through family and into the workforce. It touches a number of people around the patient," says Dr. Roger Brito, senior medical director for the Aetna oncology solutions team.
No matter what your diagnosis, dealing with a medical condition is often difficult. But there are ways to help make accepting, coping, and moving forward easier.
Your health plan can help
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan through a private health care company like Aetna, you may have access to resources to help you cope with your medical condition. For example, your Medicare Advantage plan may offer a disease management program that can help you understand your condition and follow your doctor's treatment plan.
"Oftentimes, the last place patients look to go for support is their health care company. But your health plan may have a lot to offer. So making that point of contact [with your plan] on your journey is really important," says Dr. Brito.
Talk with a licensed Aetna representative
Monday-Friday 8am to 6pm CT
Think of your doctor as your coach
You'll likely have questions after a diagnosis. Your doctor is a great resource to get those questions answered. They can also help you stay positive and proactive as you learn about your condition.
"Doctors can coach and educate you on your condition and how you can conquer it if it's curable. If a condition can't be cured, they can help you cope and continue to live a good quality of life," says Dr. Brito.
Your doctor can also provide you with educational materials, inform you about support groups and other resources, and work with you to create a personalized treatment plan based on your specific diagnosis.
Your family has support, too
Supporting and taking care of a loved one after they've been diagnosed with a condition can take a toll on a caregiver's own health, too — physically and psychologically. Dr. Brito says it's important that caregivers seek support for their own needs to maintain their health and well-being.
"There's a higher incidence of depression among caregivers and sometimes a high incidence of guilt because they're thinking, 'Why my spouse or my partner, and why not me?'," he says. "That's why part of the health care continuum sometimes means taking care of the patients and their caregivers."
If you're a family member or caregiver looking for support, you can turn to your doctors, support groups, educational resources, and your health plan for help as you navigate this new journey with your loved one.
Don't be afraid to get a second opinion
Even if you feel you have a strong relationship with your doctor, Dr. Brito says getting a second opinion on a diagnosis is a good idea. "I really encourage getting second opinions. If a patient gets a second opinion and that doctor provides the same diagnosis or recommendations, then it really solidifies the patient's relationship with their doctor," he says.
Seeking a second opinion can also help you learn about all your treatment options and help you decide with your doctor which one is right for you.
Coping with a diagnosis may be one of the most challenging things you have to go through. But understanding the support and resources available to you can make a big difference in learning how to continue to live well after a diagnosis.
"Being proactive, getting educated [about your diagnosis], talking to others who have your condition, being part of a support group, and involving your loved ones on your journey is the best way to cope," says Dr. Brito.
Speak to a licensed Aetna representative about Medicare
Monday-Friday 8am to 6pm CT
1-833-942-1968 (TTY: 711)