I don’t know about you, but whenever I have been trying to consider my healthcare options, whether in the standard medical paradigm or in the complementary field, there are often overwhelming amounts of information to take in.
And as for making a decision about the best option for you, sometimes, you feel put on the spot and are expected to agree or consent to treatment straight away. In some cases, all this information comes on the back of a shock diagnosis or wasn’t expected and you just need the world to slow down. What do you do?
In times like this we often need to do two things in order to help us come to a decision: some time and space, and a way of gathering all the information you need in order to make an informed decision.
One of my favourite ways to do this is to work through the following Acronym below. This not only gives you the structure to ask questions and get the information you need to make a decision in a structured way, but also slows down the process giving you time to take in and process everything.
This can be used for all treatment suggestions, regardless of whether the treatment is a course of medication, a course of acupuncture, a course of massages, surgery, diet or even lifestyle changes.
B is for Benefits
What are the benefits of the recommended treatment? How long does it take to see the benefits? How long will they last for? Will the treatment need to be repeated after a certain point in time? How will you know that it is working or successful? Will the benefits be increased or less effective with anything else you may be doing or taking?
R is for Risks
What are all the risks with the recommended treatment? How frequently do they occur and what is the likelihood you will experience them? If you have been given medication, there should be a patient safety information leaflet telling you the risks and the frequency at which they were reported.
If you have been offered surgery, then you should be offered leaflets explaining the procedure and risks. Can you see testimonials from anyone who has had the treatment? This may be especially useful in complementary therapy treatments.
How serious are the risks? Some risks may be that you feel a bit sleepy or a change in bowel movements for a few days or that you won’t be able to operate heavy machinery for a while. However, other risks could be more serious. It’s important you understand both the level of seriousness of the risk and how likely it is to occur to make a judgement call on what feels ok for you. You may also want to consider the severity of the condition you are wanting to treat. For example, if you are suffering something serious, you may be willing to take a higher risk than taking a higher risk medication for an issue that could be helped with diet and lifestyle.
Whatever, the risk is, it is up to you what you feel comfortable with. No one else.
A is for Alternatives
Are there any alternatives? In nearly all circumstances, there are alternatives, even if your healthcare provider doesn’t like them. It could be alternatives procedures or medications? Or it could be alternative treatments such as womb massage, acupuncture, nutrition or lifestyle choices. It is unlikely that one provider will understand all the options available so you may need to take some time to research a few choices.
For legal reasons, it will often be important for you to inform your primary care provider of any treatment you undergo, include lifestyle changes as it could affect what they can offer you or a treatment regime they have or may recommend.
I is for Intuition
This is more important than you may think. So many women have told me their gut told them that an option didn’t feel right. Either the recommended treatment or the person providing it didn’t feel right and they wish they had listened to their gut. Even in the standard medical system, most countries have a legal requirement to offer you a second opinion.
If your intuition is telling you something just feels right or wrong, take time to really process it and acknowledge it. In my experience my gut has always led me to make the right choices, my only mistake was ignoring it.
N is for Nothing
This may sound radical but it can help you gain perspective. What will happen if you do nothing? Is it likely to get better or worse? Some conditions can be self limiting: such as colds that get better by themselves. And if your condition is likely to get better or worse, what is the time frame?
This question can really help to put things into perspective for you.
By the time you have worked through all these points, you should have enough information to start thinking about what your informed choice is and hopefully have slowed down the process enough to get some space and clarity.
Unless you have an acute situation, many times you are likely to have the time and space to even go away and have a think before making a decision, especially in a heated environment.