Advocating for Yourself

Protect your health-related decisions

Preparing your advanced directives for health care decision-making is critical to assure that you protect your right to have those you choose to be involved in your health care even when you are not able to speak for yourself.  This is particularly true for LGBTQ people who live in areas where these rights are not, or may not be, protected by local laws powerand policies.  Virginia is a prime example, where legal protections for LGBTQ people are not in place.  Equality Virginia provides excellent guidelines and recommendations for preparing your advance medical directives in their state but the guidelines are helpful for all LGBTQ individuals and families.

The Family Caregivers Alliance of the National Center on Caregiving provides a FAQ Fact Sheet on LGBT Caregiving  and a Fact Sheet on Legal Issues for LGBT Caregiving.  These fact sheets discuss the challenges that LGBTQ people face in a caregiving situation, and how to overcome obstacles to getting the care you need.

Be well prepared to visit your health care provider

When you have a visit with health care providers, it’s wise to maximize your time with them so that you get the best care possible and get all your questions answered. Three documents can help with that:

  • The body resume  (bring this to the first visit with any health care provider, including specialists that your provider may send you to). Your resume includes the following:
    • Your date of birth
    • Family medical history, including your parents, brothers & sisters, aunts & uncles, and grandparents. Include information about their current and past health, what diseases they have (or had), and if they are deceased, what was the cause
    • Your medical history, including childhood diseases, chronic and acute problems, what allergies you have and what you do for them; include what preventative measures you have taken (e.g. vaccinations, both as a child and as an adult), and what screening tests you may have had, e.g. prostate exams, pap smears, mammograms, other x-rays, MRIs or CAT scans
    • Your surgical history, including whether or not you have your tonsils & appendix, what other surgeries you have had, and what accidents you have had
    • If you were born a woman, regardless of your current gender expression, what your obstetric and gynecologic history has been; e.g. if you have been pregnant what was the outcome; if you have had pap smears when was your last one and what was the result; if you have had mammograms, what was the result
    • Your social history, including use of alcohol, smoking, what is your partnership status, whether or not you have experienced violence (domestic or street), who your emergency contact is and what their contact information is
  • A list of current medications, including prescription drugs, naturopathic compounds, supplements, and street drugs. (bring this to every visit)
  • A list of your questions for that day (bring this to every visit) that includes what tests may be ordered, why, how they will impact the management of your care, how you can get the results, what follow-up is necessary and when you should schedule your next visit

Be well prepared and know your rights provides a useful guide for self advocacy and LGBTQ health care.  Their guide includes topics related to choosing a provider and knowing what preventive care you need to consider.

We invite YOU to contribute stories of your own advocacy efforts and suggestions can benefit others who visit this web site!  Enter your comments below – we will respond!

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