Empowering young adults to own their healthcare

Teen transition to adult healthcareFrom the day your child was born, you’ve most likely been managing every aspect of his or her healthcare — scheduling appointments, filling prescriptions, making sure immunizations are current. As your children get older, it’s important that we as parents play a role in empowering young adults to own their healthcare.

Start early

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the University of Michigan Health System recommend that young adults transition to adult care between the ages of 18 and 21 years old. Start preparing for this transition when your child is 14 or 15. Help your child understand his personal and your family’s health history. Have him fill out any health history forms under your supervision so you can discuss any health history.

Encourage your child to speak with his doctor

Healthcare providers will help your child prepare for the healthcare transition by meeting privately with your child during visits. Having that alone time with the healthcare provider helps your child develop independence and confidence in speaking with his doctor. It also gives the doctor time to discuss any issues or concerns your child may have privately.

Medication education

If your child takes medication, start educating her about the medication — the name, the dosage, how to get refills, what to do if she misses a dose, any potential harmful interactions with other drugs/foods, etc. By educating your child in her mid-teen years, she’ll be prepared to manage medications on her own.

Understanding allergies

With allergies being so prevalent these days, it’s also important for teenagers and young adults with allergies to become familiar with how to prevent, recognize and treat allergic reactions. Understanding their allergies and how to manage them can help your child feel more in control and alleviate some of the stress associated with being out on their own – whether they’re out at a football game with friends or heading off to college.

Understand who your child’s doctor can talk to

Your child is considered an adult at 18 and because of privacy laws, once she’s turned 18, healthcare providers can no longer communicate with parents about her healthcare. If your child would like for you to still be involved, she must complete a Family and Friends List available at your healthcare provider’s office. On that form, she can identify specifically what information can be shared with whom. If she wants the doctor to be able to share lab results, or for mom to be able to request prescription refills, this form must be completed.

Kids with special needs

If you have a child with special needs who is unable to make his own medical decisions, you’ll need to obtain a medical power of attorney to be able to continue making healthcare decisions for him after he turns 18.

Choosing an adult healthcare provider

In addition to owning their healthcare, young adults need to transition to adult healthcare providers. This can be stressful for some who enjoy the long-term relationship they have with their pediatrician. For others, it can be a welcome change from waiting rooms filled with children, lollipops and stickers. For those with healthcare providers in the U-M Health System, transitioning to an adult healthcare provider is easy. In most locations, there are both adult and pediatric practitioners, so your young adult can continue going to the same physical location, he’ll just be seeing a new professional. All medical records and history are also easily shared among providers in the Health System.

Letting go as our children age can be challenging, but it’s part of the parenting experience. Helping our children transition to owning their healthcare is just one part of preparing them for adulthood. It’s a good thing when your child matures and develops the skills needed to live independently.

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Sharon Kileny, MD, PediatricianSharon Kileny, MD, received both her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan. She completed her residency at Mott Children’s Hospital. Her clinical interests include newborn care, asthma and allergies and adolescent health care. Her outside hobbies are skiing, running and travel. Dr. Kileny lives in Ann Arbor along with her husband, son and daughter.


best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” in 2014, and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine.