You are here: Home Managing Your ... Multiple Health ... Summary
Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


It is not unusual for people to have more than one health condition ("comorbidity").This is especially true for older people. 

Multiple health conditions make it even more important to follow the guidelines for maximizing care. 

With respect to doctors:

  • It is wise to appoint one doctor to oversee your health and treatments. This is generally your primary care physician, but can just as easily be one of your specialists if he or she agrees to take on this role. 
  • Be sure the overseeing doctor is kept to date. Every time you see a doctor, or take a test, ask that a copy of the doctor's notes and all reports be sent to the overseeing doctor. It may be a pain to have to keep asking, but it's important.  (If there is a particularly important meeting, such as one when you receive a new diagnosis, consider checking with your overseeing doctor's office to be sure the report was received.)
  • To maximize time with each doctor, learn about each health condition. Since keeping track of more than one condition can be difficult, record or take notes of each session. If you take a patient advocate with you to doctor's appointments, it can help if the same person or people go with you to appointments for each condition to help you keep an overview. To learn more, click here.

When you are prescribed new medications, or a change in existing medications:

  • Ask about the effect on your other condition(s). It is up to you to prioritize which is most important at any given time. To learn more, click here.
  • Let the doctor(s) in charge of each of your health conditions know about suggested changes in medications or treatment before taking them. Drugs and lifestyle advice can work at cross purposes.  To learn what to look for when agreeing to a a treatment with more than one health condition, click here.

If new symptoms appear, let a doctor for each of the health conditions know. Even though one doctor thinks it relates to the condition he or she is treating, it may appear differently to a doctor in charge of a different condition.

It is preferable to incorporate your medical care into your life so you don't feel as taking care of your health has taken over your life. For tips, click here.

Emotional swings, particularly stress and depression, may be even more difficult because of your extra burden. There are medications and techniques to help with each. For more information, click here.

If you apply for disability income, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), be sure to list all your health conditions. Any one may not not be considered to be disabling, but the combination may be.

For additional information, see:

Doctors 101 When You Have More Than One Health Condition

Whether choosing a doctor as a primary care doctor, a specialist or a doctor for a second opinion, in addition to the factors to consider which are described in the linked articles, also consider whether the doctor is willing to work as a team with your other doctors and professional and personal care team.

To get appropriate and effective treatment, it is important to be evaluated and treated as a whole which includes all health conditions. The whole patient approach takes into account:

  • Side effects that may affect other health conditions.
  • The interaction of the various drugs used to treat the conditions and side effects.

To help assure that your care is coordinated, consider appointing one doctor to oversee your health and treatments. As a general rule, it doesn't matter whether the doctor is your primary care doctor or one of your specialists who she agrees to take on this role. 

  • It is up to you to make sure that the supervising doctor is constantly kept to date. Michael R. does this by reminding each doctor at the end of each appointment to send the supervising doctor notes from the appointment. He also checks with the supervising doctor when he sees him to be sure notes were received from his other doctors for the appointments he had since his last visit with the supervising doctor. (Michael keeps a list of his appointments so he doesn't have to try to remember them).  
  • At the least, encourage each doctor to make contact with your other doctor(s) or at least the supervising doctor if there is a change in the condition the doctor treats or in your side effects. What may not be an important change to one specialist, may be a bell ringer to a doctor who specializes in a different health condition.

In order to avoid your health conditions taking over your life, try to schedule doctor appointments for one or two days during the week.

NOTE: To maximize time with your doctor, keep in mind the following, each of which are described in depth in Doctors 101.

  • Learn what you need to know about each health condition.
  • A good relationship depends on your approach to the doctor as well as his or hers to you. It also involves maximizing your time together, and working on smoothing out any bumps in the relationship.If necessary, change doctors. 
  • It is advisable to record or take notes of each session. Keeping track of more than one condition can be difficult. If you take an advocate with you to doctors' appointments, it can help if the same person or people go with you to appointments for each condition to help you keep an overview.
  • If you need it, there are doctors who make housecalls.

Drugs 101 When You Have More Than One Health Condition

  • Be sure that each doctor you see is aware of all medications, herb and supplements you take prior to prescribing a new medication and when considering side effects. This is easier to do if you keep a List of Medications, keep it up-to-date, and carry it with you all the time.  
  • If a doctor recommends a change in a drug schedule or prescribes a new drug: 
    • Contact your other doctor(s) prior to making the change. This is particularly important if the change is to one of the drugs prescribed by another doctor. 
    • Inform your other doctor(s) (by telephone, fax or email) of the suggestion and give them a chance to object before making the change. 

Having more than one health condition makes it particularly important to approach your health care as an educated consumer. For instance, consider the following tips (which are explained more fully in Drugs 101: An Overview  

  • Decide on your objectives before agreeing to take a drug.
  • Only take a drug with "Informed Consent." No medicine is without risk, whether it is prescribed by a health care provider or available over-the-counter. In fact, adverse drug reactions from "properly" prescribed drugs are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It is advisable to weigh the risks of each drug against the risk of not taking it.
  • Do your part to avoid medication errors.(For instance, check that the medicine you receive from the pharmacist looks the same as you expect it to.)
  • Avoid overmedication.
  • Always carry an up-to-date list of your medicines with you to show doctors during appointments and in case of emergency. Include over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, minerals, herbs and supplements even though they are available without a prescription.
  • When cost is an issue, think about the money.
  • Buy drugs in the place that's best for you.
  • You may be able to get the drugs you need even if you can't afford them or even if they are not FDA approved.

To Learn More

How To Choose A Treatment When You Have More Than One Health Condition

The five steps an educated consumer uses to choose a treatment are as follows (each of which are described in details in How To Choose A Treatment):

Step 1.  Know your rights.
Step 2.  Understand your diagnosis.
Step 3.  Be sure your doctor knows what she needs to know about you.
Step 4.  Consider the pros and cons of a treatment and treatment alternative. 
Step 5.  Consider getting a second opinion.

If You Are Just Diagnosed: You may wish to wait a period of time before making any treatment decisions. Give yourself the time to absorb what you have been told. With the exception of true medical emergencies, you usually have at least a few weeks to make important treatment decisions without jeopardizing your health. Ask your doctor for a more specific time frame.

Family Members: If you have family members or loved ones who will be involved in your treatment decisions or care, before agreeing to a treatment, consider requesting a "group appointment" with your doctor. Most doctors will not object to meeting with your "support team."

If current treatments do not work for you or your condition, consider cutting edge treatments available in clinical trials. Stay away from experimental/unproven treatments outside of a clinical trial setting and the safeguards clinical trials provide. 

To Learn More

Techniques To Help Keep Your Health Conditions From Taking Over Your Life

For instance:

  • Try to schedule your medical appointments, including tests, on one or two days of a week. 
  • Keep track of tests. Preferably get copies of test results and file them in an easy-to-access, safe place. 
  • When ongoing tests are required, find out if you can do them at home or a place close to home.
  • Use email or fax as much as possible.
  • Use a pharmacy that will coordinate when refills are needed so you don't have to constantly think about running out. A pharmacy that reminds you when prescriptions need to be renewed keeps you from scrambling at the last minute.

It is more difficult to take drugs as prescribed when you are taking multiple drugs. Use whatever aids are necessary for you to keep on track.

How To Handle Your Emotions When You Have More Than One Health Condition

The emotions that accompany any life changing health condition can be heightened by having more than one condition.

There are medications and techniques for dealing with emotions such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

It is important to express your emotions.

  • Consider joining a support group both to help with your emotional well being and to learn practical tips about coping with your health conditions. If no group works for you, consider starting an informal one of your own. 
  • At least consider speaking one-on-one with someone going through the same situation you are. 
  • Express your emotions to family and friends.

For a list of emotions that can surface while living after a diagnosis, and tips for dealing with each, click here.