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Is your Teen Ready for the Adult Healthcare System?

If your teen has kidney disease or kidney failure, you are probably helping with most of their medical needs.  You may be filling out forms, keeping track of medications, and calling for doctor appointments. Most parents feel responsible for these tasks.  But as your teen gets older, he or she will need to manage their own healthcare needs without you.  Your goal is to help your teen get ready to make this change correctly and successfully.  This can be a serious but exciting step for teenagers.  Here are some ways you and your teen can begin to prepare. 

Step 1:  Start by teaching your teen how to:

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

Step 2:  Make sure your teen understands:

  • What to do in case of a medical emergency
  • How to take his/her medication and what side effects to look out for
  • Why it’s important to take all medications as instructed

Step 3:  Encourage your teen to:

  • Attend healthcare visits without you
  • Carry important health information every day, including list of medications, allergy information, doctor’s numbers, drug store number, emergency contacts, etc.
  • Know his/her weight, blood pressure, and lab levels
  • Carry his/her health insurance card every day
  • Call for his/her own doctor appointments
  • Prepare written questions to ask before each doctor’s appointment
  • Keep track of prescription refills and expiration dates
  • Call for his/her own prescription refills
  • Participate in filing his/her own medical records and receipts to insurance companies
  • Register and pay co-pays for medical visits
  • Help monitor his/her medical equipment so it’s in good working condition
  • Know who to contact if medical equipment needs to be fixed


  • You and your teen should have a plan so he/she can keep his/her healthcare insurance after he/she  turns 18 and 26
  • Prepare your teen to sign his/her own medical forms (HIPAA, consent for treatment, release of records).
  • Discuss and develop advanced directives for healthcare decisions in the event your teen’s health changes and he/she is unable to make decisions for him/herself. (Everyone in the family should have one!)

Whenever possible, let your teen take the lead in making healthcare decisions. Though it might take some extra effort and a bit of patience on your part at first, your teen can become more independent when managing their own healthcare and make their transfer to adult healthcare a success. 

Last Reviewed: 03/07/2017
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