Why Don't We Follow Doctors' Orders?

“I don't wanna, I don't hafta, and you can't make me...”

Remember those words from childhood? Or maybe you weren't as...contrary...as me. I think about that phrase whenever I hear about someone who doesn't follow their doctor's instructions. I used to wonder why anyone would do that but since being diagnosed with COPD I've done it myself.

I was curious if it was just me or if this was a common occurrence. In researching it for this article I found I'm not alone. Many people don't follow all of their treatment programs, including taking medications as prescribed, or exercising and eating as encouraged. In addition to reading medical articles, I've talked to other COPD and chronic illness patients, and thought about my own experiences, and the reasons why we don't comply with our treatment plan.

We consciously or subconsciously deny – or our loved ones deny – that we're really sick.

Look, I get it. In the earlier stages COPD can be easy to ignore if our symptoms aren't too bad. I ignored the slight shortness of breath and the extra fatigue, thinking I was just out of shape and getting old. I wasn't diagnosed until Stage Two when I couldn't deny anymore that it was a medical problem.

I know that a friend of mine waited and waited and waited to see a doctor about her breathing issues until she was actually in end stage. She did not trust doctors and may have thought if she didn't have a diagnosis then her disease wouldn't be real. As her condition worsened, I noticed her husband still expected her to continue doing the things she used to with the energy level she used to have. I suspect this was in part because he did not want to face the reality that his wife was very sick.

Again, I understand it.

I don't know why, but it's human to think that if we ignore sickness, it will go away. If we don't really see our symptoms, it's not real. If we pretend that nothing bad is happening, then nothing bad is happening. Right?

No, that's not logical. And yes, it is always best to catch it and treat it as early as possible. Still, we don't always want to face what needs to be faced.

The cost of medication, doctors, specialists, tests, treatment, etc.

This is probably the number one reason why patients can't follow treatment programs, at least here in America. I do not know about other countries but I would guess it's similar. Even with health insurance, co-pays on inhalers and injections can be outrageous.

It's affected me too. I have severe asthma, at least partially caused by severe allergies. My allergist prescribed an injection for me to help with the flareups and fatigue. I had to apply to the company that makes the medication and they decided if I qualified for it. Once I was accepted, I had to apply for a medical grant to afford the co-payafter my insurance paid their portion. The shot is several thousand dollars per dosage. Without financial aid like I was lucky enough to get, no one could afford that. I have also gone without my prescribed inhalers because that co-pay was too high.

There are things we can do, though. I know of several people who fill their prescriptions online, some from pharmacies in different countries, which are less expensive. I have been able to work with my primary doctor's office to apply for patient assistance through the drug companies. My primary doctor's pharmacy helped me with coupons too. Also, I've applied for help online from the drug manufacturer themselves. A lot of the companies provide financial help directly...

Check out part 2!

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