How can I change the way I feel about taking medication?

Hardly anybody likes to take medication. The issue of risk versus benefit when it comes to virtually all medications was discussed earlier. Just because you have done your homework and had a serious discussion with your doctor about the risks compared with the benefits of your medications doesn't mean you will look forward to taking them. Every time you have to use medication you are reminded again that you are sick, that there is something wrong with you, and it's not going away. When patients "forget" to take medication, they may be avoiding the regular reminder of their condition. Not complying with the treatment regimen is a form of denial.

Is there anything you can do to feel better about medication and treatment? Yes! The first step is to change your relationship with the medication. Do you wince each time you use medication as you silently repeat the list of possible side effects in your mind? Not only is the act of taking medication a reminder of chronic illness, it also becomes a reminder of all the bad things that can result from the medication itself. If you are going to change your relationship with medication, then you have to start by changing your thinking.

Start by mentally listing the benefits of the medications each time you take a dose. When your thoughts go back to the negative, simply remind yourself that you are changing the way you think. This takes practice. You might even have to write down the list of benefits and read them each time you take a dose. Think or even say out loud, "I am taking this pill because it will do (this good thing) and this one because it will do (another good thing)."

Another way to change your thinking and therefore your relationship with medication is to practice gratitude. Instead of resenting the drugs and how they represent your illness, be thankful. After you have reminded yourself about the benefits of the medications, say to yourself, "I am thankful that I live in a time and place where there are scientists who develop treatments like this and doctors who know what to prescribe." In most of the world, people do not have access to the kind of care you do if you are reading this book. Practice gratitude.

Develop strategies for remembering to take your medications as prescribed, both at the right time and in the right manner. Get one (or more) of those pill containers with compartments for each day of the week. Some have four different slots for each day, so you can sort your medications by time. Choose one day of the week for filling your containers. When you fill the slots for the week, check to see if you have enough for the following week. If not, call your doctor or pharmacy and order refills. If possible, set up your prescriptions to be refilled automatically at your pharmacy. While laying out your medications, applaud yourself for being a responsible and proactive patient! "I am a good patient. I follow my treatment regimen. I am a partner in achieving my highest level of wellness."

It takes time for new ways of thinking to take hold and become part of you. You may very well practice these habits and new ways of thinking for months before you realize that you have indeed changed your attitude. In fact, once this change really sticks, you might even find yourself agitated at the thought of NOT taking your medication!

How can I find help to pay for my medication and other medical expenses?

The people who need medical care often face the most challenges trying to get it. Forced to stop working or reduce work hours because of illness, many chronically ill people face the double whammy of losing insurance and income at the same time. Some are simply uninsurable. Dr. Andrew P. Wilper and colleagues from the Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that an estimated 11.5 million Americans with at least one chronic illness have no health insurance, and 22.6% had not visited a physician in the last 12 months. After the researchers adjusted for age, gender, and race or ethnicity, they found that the chronically ill uninsured patients were four to six times more likely than sick patients with insurance to have these access problems. Those who can see their doctors are likely to have a hard time paying for their prescriptions. People with chronic illness who are on Medicare can easily fall into the "doughnut hole" earlier in the yearly cycle of benefits. Those people poor enough to get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid are saddled with a share of cost that they usually cannot pay.

If you are one of the 11.5 million Americans who find themselves with chronic illness and no insurance, you have to fight especially hard or have someone help you fight. Check with your local health department. Services vary widely from state to state and within any given state, but this is a good starting point. Call your local county or city social services department and ask about indigent health care programs. Ask if there are any private free clinics in your area. Some local ministerial associations are able to help. Individual local houses of worship may have some limited funds as well. Ask not only about seeing a doctor but also about reduced fees for laboratory tests.

Paying for medication is an enormous issue for the chronically ill. The majority of pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs. For many, if your family income is less than 243% of the poverty level you will qualify for some assistance. The income scale is weighted according to the income of the household and the number of people living in it. For a single person it is just over $10,000. So a person who lives alone and makes under $24,300 has a good chance of qualifying

If you are one of the 11.5 million Americans who find themselves with chronic illness and no insurance, you have to fight especially hard or have someone help you fight.

for some kind of help paying for medication. Please don't say, "I won't qualify." You won't know unless you try. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPARX) is a clearing house for patient-assistance programs. Their services are free. You can call them at (888) 477-2669 or apply online at There are a few drug manufacturers that are not listed with PPARX. You can find the contact information for individual manufacturers at The Needymeds site also has a searchable database of some 3,400 free clinics and has printable coupons for medications. For a list of foundations helping with co-payments on medication, check out aspx?cid=CoPayAssistanceFoundations.cms. The Patient Advocate Foundation offers assistance to patients with specific issues they are facing with their insurer, employer, and/or creditor regarding insurance, job retention, and/or debt crisis matters relative to their diagnosis of life-threatening or debilitating diseases. For more information, visit index.php or call (800) 532-5274.

Fight hard to find the medical care and medications that you need. When chronic illness is ignored, the results can be catastrophic. Remember, your life is valuable, and you have just as much right to live as anyone else on the planet!

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