Monday, January 23, 2017

Transitioning Your Child to 18: Medical Edition

Last year at this time I was very stressed out.  For one, my son and I were in the process of applying for scholarships (there are a lot of parents who make their child do everything during this process, I felt that a scholarship helped me out as much as him so we went 50/50 with them).  Secondly, I like to plan so at this point I was already looking ahead at what we would need to buy/pack for his move to college. And lastly I was facing the fact that in a month he was going to be turning 18 and all of the sudden I wouldn't be in charge of several things in his life.

Mostly, I wasn't going to be allowed to help him with medical stuff anymore.  For most parents, this is probably a blip on the radar or something they don't even think about until they have to because their child needs some care.  For me, it was front and center in my mine because my son has Crohn's disease.

We actually had his last treatment, in the hospital he had been having treatments at since he got diagnosed at 13, on his 18th birthday.  It was so sad to let the nurses know that this was his last time there.  So many of them had been there since his first time and watched him grow up and get healthy. We took a few boxes of chocolates with us for all the staff members to enjoy and then a special treat for "our" nurse (the remicade infusion nurse was always the same which was one reason we traveled four hours every 8 weeks, we liked having someone who really knew him) then said thank you and goodbye.  Time to move on!

We had already found an adult GI in our town that we really liked and I made an appointment with him for late spring. My son and I have a lot of trust built up since we have been traveling for years for his treatment.  Eight hours in a car gives you a lot of chat time and we are very close.  So, when Carter started going to his adult GI he told me I could come for the first appointment.  As a new patient he had a lot of paperwork to fill out, which I had him do but I sat there and helped him when he had a question.  The most important form for me was the one he signed to give me permission to make and cancel appointments and get information from tests, etc... We also moved his treatments to our hospital (even though it is five hours away from his college town, he likes coming back here for treatments. Might have something to do with his girlfriend being a senior in high school).  And when he had his first treatment I went with him again to help with paperwork and make sure he signed the right forms for me to make appointments and get info.

I have had some parents wonder why I don't just leave it all up to him and there is two reasons.  First, I worry way more about his health that he does.  I don't even think he remembers how sick he was before he got diagnosed, but I do.  It's not like I am constantly calling his doctors or hovering over him during treatments, but I want to have the ability to find things out if I need to.  In fact, after his first appointments I haven't gone with him.  It's a gradual transition, but it is a transition.

The second reason is that he is starting a whole new phase of his life.  He is going to college and planning a rigorous course of study for his degree (nursing).  There is a ton of new and adult things he is learning to do, college throws them right into the deep end.  If there was one thing that I could help him with to ease his load then I was willing to do that.  Eventually he will be the one to make his appointments and take total charge of his health, but for now I am going to continue to help him with that.

A few of the other things I had him do were:

*call the insurance company and approve it for me to see/receive his EOBs.  I didn't even think about this until about a month after his summer treatment when I realized I hadn't seen anything, and his weren't coming up on my online account.  This was tough for him because he was very unsure of what to say, but he did it all on his own.

*We took a picture of his insurance card and put it on his phone.  Although he has his physical card he carries his phone around way more than his card.

*We had a lawyer friend of ours draw up a Power of Attorney and we all signed it.  Again this was not something I thought of, but this friend knew what we had gone through when he was first sick.  She told me about a friend whose 19 year old daughter was in a car wreck and couldn't communicate and the hospital wouldn't let the parents approve treatments.  I am not sure how all that works out but I know hospitals are so private and protective nowadays that I felt it was better to be safe than sorry.  We will probably keep that in place until he is married.

Because he is very healthy right now I didn't do anything special at the college.  If he goes into another flare up then I will decide what to do, or he will.  He's the kind of kid that will probably always make it to class unless its a very debilitating flare up.  I am trying not to think about that right now because he is happy, healthy and loving being a college student!

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