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Getting Ready for the Adult Healthcare System

Staying on top of your kidney disease or kidney failure as a teen is a lot of work.  You are probably getting a lot of help with most of your medical needs from your parents and family. When your healthcare teams feels you are ready, you will enter the adult healthcare system. Most often, this happens around age 18. In the years leading up to that, you will need to learn skills such as filling out forms, keeping track of medications, and calling for doctor appointments. These are all skills you have to learn to do for yourself. To get ready to make this change, you should be working with your family and healthcare team well before you turn 18. Even though this can be a serious step, it can be an exciting step for you as well. Here are some ways you can begin to prepare:

Step 1: Learn how to…

  • Explain your healthcare needs to others, especially to the healthcare team
  • Recognize when your symptoms need quick or immediate medical attention
  • Explain how your family’s customs and beliefs might affect healthcare decisions and medical treatments


Step 2: Be informed

  • Know what to do in case of a medical emergency
  • Know why it’s important to take all medications as instructed and what side effects to look out for
  • Know your weight, blood pressure, and lab levels
  • Know who to contact if medical equipment needs to be fixed
  • Know how to plan ahead in case you have to travel


Step 3:  Take Charge

  • Try attending some healthcare visits without a parent
  • Carry important health information every day, including list of medications, allergy information, doctor’s numbers, drug store number, emergency contacts, etc.
  • Carry your health insurance card every day
  • Call for your own doctor appointments
  • Prepare written questions to ask before each doctor’s appointment
  • Keep track of your prescriptions and call for your own prescription refills. Be mindful of expiration dates of your prescriptions.
  • Participate in filing out your own medical records and receipts to insurance companies
  • Help monitor and maintain your medical equipment so it’s in good working condition



  • Talk to your family about having a plan in place to keep your healthcare insurance.  Young adults are able to stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26 years old, but changes in your parent’s insurance may affect you.  
  • Discuss with your family about signing your own medical forms as an adult (HIPAA, permission for treatment, release of records)
  • Talk with your family about advanced directives for healthcare decisions in case your health changes and you are unable to make decision for yourself


Last Reviewed: 02/03/2017
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