Discussing Financial and Life Changes with Your Doctor


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It helps the doctor—and you—if he or she knows about the non-medical parts of your life. Where you live, how you get around, and what activities are important to you—these are all things that can make a difference in decisions about your health care. The following are some examples of practical matters you might want to discuss with your doctor. For additional information and resources on these topics, see the resources at the end of this article. Close up of calculator and pen on a pad of paper

Planning for Care in the Event of a Serious Illness

You may have some concerns or wishes about your care if you become seriously ill. If you have questions about what choices you have, ask your doctor. You can specify your desires through documents called advance directives, such as a living will or healthcare proxy. One way to bring up the subject is to say: “I’m worried about what would happen in the hospital if I were very sick and not likely to get better. Can you tell me what generally happens in that case?”

In general, the best time to talk with your doctor about these issues is while you are still relatively healthy. Medicare and private health insurance may cover these discussions with your doctor. If you are admitted to the hospital or a nursing home, a nurse or other staff member may ask if you have any advance directives.

Learn more about advance care planning.


Driving is an important part of everyday life for many people, and making the decision to stop driving can be very difficult. Tell your doctor if you or people close to you are concerned about your driving and why. He or she can go over your medical conditions and medications to see if there are treatable problems that may be contributing to driving difficulties.

Find out more about older drivers.

Moving to Assisted Living

Another hard decision that many older people face is whether or not to move to a place where they can have more help—often an assisted living facility. If you are considering such a move, your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons based on your health and other circumstances. He or she may be able to refer you to a social worker or a local agency that can help in finding an assisted living facility.

Read more information about long-term care.

Paying for Medications

Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor about the cost of your medications. If they are too expensive for you, the doctor may be able to suggest less expensive alternatives. You can ask if there is a generic or other less expensive choice. You could say, for instance: “It turns out that this medicine is too expensive for me. Is there another one or a generic drug that would cost less?”

Learn more about saving money on medicines.

For More Information About Discussing Non-Medical Concerns with Your Doctor

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
1-800-633-4227 (toll-free)
1-877-486-2048 (TTY/toll-free)

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From the lab – Bringing Prosthetic Hands to Life


NIH is improving prosthetic, or artificial, limbs so that they can work better and feel more natural to patients.

Using vibrations and a complex, computerized interface between patients’ brains and limbs, the team of researchers was able to trick the patients’ brains into moving their prosthetic hands.

In the small group of patients with limb loss, a surgeon redirected the nerves for the missing part of the limb—in this case, nerves for the hand and fingers—to other remaining muscles. When the subject tries to move their amputated limb, the reconnected muscle contracts. Those signals can then be connected to a computer to drive the motion of bionic hands.

The motion-sensing bionic arm and hands coordinate more naturally and fully with the brain by vibrating near the muscles, which creates sensations that help control the prosthesis.

The research study was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award. The award supports projects that are often risky and untested but have the potential to lead to major research findings.

“Decades of research have shown that muscles need to sense movement to work properly. This system basically hacks the neural circuits behind that system,” says James W. Gnadt, Ph.D., of NINDS. “This approach takes the field of prosthetic medicine to a new level, which we hope will improve the lives of many.”

SOURCES: NIH Research Matters: Improving Control of Bionic Prosthetic Hands; opens in new window National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Bionic Limb opens in new window

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