7 Ways to Stick to Your New Treatment (or not)

Migraine patients are constantly frustrated by a lack of good treatments, good information, trained health professionals, and funding for research. And we’re right to be concerned. But there’s another major issue that is keeping many patients from the best treatments.

It’s simply this: we don’t do what the doctor tells us to do.

One of the major recommendations for solving this problem is creating a “blame-free” environment. Well, sometimes we need the truth, even if it involves so-called “blame”. But it’s actually a lot more complicated than simply “the patient is bad because he didn’t take his meds”.

There are many reasons why we don’t listen to our doctor’s instructions. Sometimes – hopefully not often, but sometimes – a doctor may just give horrible instructions. Like “find yourself a husband” or “stop being so stressed”.

There are a lot of things doctors can do to improve “adherence” or “compliance” as it’s called in the medical field. There’s a whole area of study related to this issue.

Did you know, for example, that some doctors will not even discuss certain treatments with you, because they think it’s a waste of time, because chances are you won’t listen? An example might be a strict diet. Even if you could drastically improve your health by weighing and measuring everything you eat – would you? Or by running 10 miles every day?

But there are some things we as patients can do in order to take our doctor’s recommendations more seriously. After all, if you’re going to try it, go all the way, and make sure you know whether it works or not. Taking your medication 60% of the time, or adhering to your diet 3 days a week, really won’t tell you if the treatment “works”.
Planning your calendar
Here are some suggestions to maximize your treatment in the year ahead (remember, this is a very complex issue – these are just a few ideas to help you, not a complete overview of the issue).

  1. Get Organized. Do you forget to take your meds? No time to make that healthy meal? A big part of it may be organization. What can you do to help remember? Why not invest in a nice pill dispenser (here are some popular examples – Pill Organizer Box Weekly Case, 4ucycling 2 Pack Easy Carry Waterproof Pill Case, or the extremely popular Borin-Halbich 7 Day 3 Compartment Pill Organizer)? How about an app to remind you (like the very entertaining Medisafe)? Why not plan a weekly menu on Saturday morning? Whatever works for you.
  2. Find a Friend. Can someone else help you? Hold you accountable? Everyone needs a friend once in a while.
  3. Rewards. How about a reward at the end of the month if you stick to your treatment?
  4. Understand your disease (and the treatment). Sometimes we’re reluctant to try a treatment because we don’t see why it would “help”. Educate yourself – it’s your responsibility. But feel free to ask your doctor lots of questions.
  5. Understand your disability (keep track!). If we have a 20% improvement, but don’t notice it, we won’t care about the treatment. As much as you can, keep track of where your symptoms are at. Use a paper diary, or an app, or a periodic test. Whatever works – the more detail the better.
  6. Recognize your beliefs. Sometimes we’re not even aware of them, but we have a lot of ideas (whether correct or correct under some circumstances, or even mistaken) that affect our treatment. Are you afraid of taking a “daily medication”? Why? Do you believe that “vitamins” won’t help? Why? Are all “drugs” bad? There may be a lot of wisdom in your idea, but there may be circumstances in which you need to rethink a little. Don’t be afraid to examine your beliefs.
  7. Communicate with your doctor (and be honest). Do you have a plan for communicating with your doctor? Ok, under some circumstances you may just need to find a new doctor. But if you’re going to stick with the one you have, you need to communicate. And be honest. If the treatment regimen is just too complicated – say so. If you’re simply not going to give yourself an injection – admit it and move on. If you need a break from trying new meds – take a break. There are going to be times when you can’t “adhere” perfectly to your treatment – and sometimes you just need to be ok with that. But if you communicate to your doctor, she can help you find something that you can adhere to.

One more thing – at this time of year, full of focus on New Year’s resolutions, there is actually some good advice out there to help you stick to your plan. If you’re reading that advice, think about how you might apply that to your medical treatment.

After all – imagine if you gained even a few more days of health this year! What would you do with them?

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