Having a serious illness brings on extra burdens for the entire family. Fortunately, from research to support groups to health records management, help can be found online.
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Do your research
Your doctor should be your primary source for health information, but you should still do your own research.
Researching your condition tells you what to expect. You may also learn about late-breaking treatments and gain enough information to know what questions to ask.
Make sure you visit reputable sources. WebMD is a great place to learn about conditions and symptoms. The Mayo Clinic site is invaluable, as is Healthline.
Find support groups
No matter your health condition, you need support. With support groups, you'll get encouragement from others with the same condition, or find answers to your questions. You can also find details on treatment options and advice on clinical trials.
Sadly, some groups take advantage of members, so choose a group carefully. Watch out for promises for sure-fire, quick cures. If such cures were available, your doctor would suggest them.
Likewise, avoid groups that encourage you to stop medical treatment. Groups charging high fees or encouraging you to buy products aren't your friends either.
You'll find online and local support groups. If you're uncomfortable, start with an online group. It could give you courage to visit a local group. Sites to visit are DailyStrength and MDJunction.
The support of family and friends is paramount. That's where Caring Bridge comes in. Create a free website to update family and friends. In turn, they can offer words of encouragement and support.
Find clinical trials
Clinical trials assess new and experimental treatments. The hope is to discover treatments that will be approved for future use. Clinical trials may not help you.
Admission requirements are often strict, but you may find a trial that suits you. You can be dropped from a trial if your condition changes.
Joining a clinical trial is never a first option. Traditional treatments are often your best bet. If traditional treatments don't work, a clinical trial offers hope.
Before joining, speak with your doctor and the doctors running the trial. Understand both the risks and the benefits.
Manage your medicine
Serious illnesses often entail a plethora of medications. It is easy to skip a medication or take it twice.
So, get help managing your medications. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, consider the iPills app (free). You can use it to list your medications and vitamins so you see on a daily basis what pills to take when. You mark a pill once it is taken.
If you don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch, there's the old standby: a pill dispenser.
Many pills look similar. In that case, consult the Merck pill identifier. It will help identify pills that you don't recognize.
Choose the right hospital, manage your records
Before you choose a hospital, do your research. USNews' hospital ranking helps you find the most respected hospitals. Search by hospital name or specialty.
Finally, keep your medical records in a single location. Google and Microsoft have tools to help. This will allow you to see your medical history at a glance and help you make it available to doctors. Such a site is particularly helpful if you're seeing multiple doctors.
You should also create a family health tree. It gives a more complete picture of your health history and it will help other family members in the future. My Family Health Portrait will help with this.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters, sign up at www.komando.com/newsletters. Contact her at email@example.com.