What does self-care mean?

Many experts bandy around the term self-care as if it is the panacea solution for health and social care. But do we know what it means and how to encourage it?

Many might say that self-care are the elements of care that we deliver ourselves – our activities of daily living, such as my ability to get up, washed, dressed and make breakfast. Some may go further to talk about  the ability to go to work, make friends, have conversations and sort out some of the other aspects social inclusion. We all recognise that health creation starts with the individual and their family and local community.

But many just talk about the ability to look after your own health without the need for medical oversight. How many times have I heard the phrase ‘you have to just look after yourself better’.

There is a truth out there that suggests that many people just don’t want to look after themselves and then, even if they did, they are still forced to rely on the health service. So the NHS tells you to look after yourself, but it has to be on their terms and when they want to do it.

This has to change.

Some community pharmacists are starting to support that change. With the advent of the internet and various groups, many people know what they should be doing and what measurements should be collected to monitor their progress. Women in the peri-natal period have always carried their records around with them, but in other areas the records are not so accessible and the results are often ‘hidden’ in a computer somewhere. I worked with a GP who had a personal diabetes record for every patient in his practice – several used it as a tick box (I have to have these tests done or the Doctor would be unhappy), but many used it to monitor their own progress and drive the consultation.

These community pharmacists provide physical measurements and biochemical tests to patients. So the patient can build their own picture of how well they are doing and do something about it with the support of their medical team. There may be a charge, but the patient is in control of what measurements they want and when and where they are going to get them.

The advantages are clear. The individual takes more responsibility for their care. They can visit their doctor/pharmacist/nurse and show a series of results and ask for support in achieving a change. The dynamic of the consultation can change and can be patient directed.

One day the NHS will issue patients with self-care vouchers that are redeemable against a range of tests to monitor he complications of the condition.


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