Chronic and complex conditions: helping your teenager manage the transition to adult care
For the approximately 10 to 15 percent of teenagers who live with chronic or complicated health conditions, the excitement of celebrating their 18th birthday might also be mixed with worries about making the transition to adult care. If your teen is one of these people then there are several things you can do to help them get ready.
Start the transition early
Ideally, your child’s healthcare team will start talking to you about the transition process a few years before your teen is old enough to move on. Depending on your child’s condition, they can introduce you to or set up meetings with the doctors, nurses and other professionals that your teenager will see in the adult healthcare setting.
Dale MacDonald, the transition to adult care coordinator for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) who works with treating teams throughout the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH), suggests that one of the first and very important steps is to get a GP. She advises starting this process well before your teen’s 18th birthday, even as early as age 14. The first person to talk to is your own GP. Ask them if they can start seeing your child in a few years, or if they have a waiting list for new patients. Your teenager’s healthcare team may also be able to provide some leads for you.
To help your teenager become more independent, you can also consider giving them certain tasks to do if they are developmentally able. For example, if they take any prescription medications, let them start ordering their own medications and going to the pharmacy to pick them up.
Express any concerns
Remember that the transition process doesn’t happen overnight. There are practical aspects that need to be addressed but there are also emotional aspects for your teenager, for you, and for your child’s healthcare team who you’ve likely come to know very well over the years. Sharing your thoughts with the healthcare team will help the process, so don’t hesitate to talk to them about your concerns.
Gather relevant resources
The professionals at the MCH involved in transition to adult care have developed tools for healthcare teams to use with parents and their children. If your child is being followed at the MCH, ask your doctor or nurse about them.
Transition from pediatric to adult health care for adolescents who have a cognitive impairment: 18 steps until 18! (PDF)