Whether you live at home, with a family member or in an assisted living center, visitors are a welcome sight. Families are important to us. You may have children of your own or you may have a mass of nieces, nephews and other close relatives. When we visit with our loved ones in assisted living communities, we often enjoy sharing family stories. These stories are part of a legacy we pass on. To keep our loved ones healthy, it is equally vital to share our family health histories.
It’s a record that documents your family’s health history and lifestyle. You can use it to write down diseases and conditions family members developed, as well as for recording their lifestyle habits and environment. For example, someone in the family may have contracted lung cancer. Were they a smoker? Did they work in a coal mine? These facts are just as important to note for your family health history as the disease itself. Reach out to your assisted living center medical staff to help you create this document.
There may be particular kinds of diseases or conditions that are common to your family. These can range from common disease, such as diabetes, cancer, depression, stroke or heart disease, to rare genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia or hemophilia.
Family routines and environment are passed down as well so this history can be just as important to adoptive children and those who marry into the family as it is for natural family members. This is because families tend to follow similar habits or they may live in the same environment, which can have an impact on their health.
Knowing your family’s health history can help in providing an explanation for conditions you or your family may have developed. You can’t change your genes, but you can work to decrease your personal health risk by improving your diet, your level of physical activity and your daily routine. Assisted living communities often provide exercise programs to help with staying healthy and physically fit.
Family members should share the family health history with their doctors on their next visit so they can better assess the risk of inheritable diseases or conditions. Armed with this knowledge, your medical care team may be able to work with you and your family to prevent these conditions since many diseases are contracted as a result of a combination of genetics, environment and daily habits. As a result, your health care professional may recommend a different diet, fitness activity, particular medications or may order medical tests based on your family’s history.
The best reason seniors should create a family health history is to provide information that may increase your family’s chances of leading long and healthy lives, impacting generations to come.