Few Parents Think 18-Year-Olds Can Handle Their Health Care

Few Parents Think 18-Year-Olds Can Handle Their Health Care

Few Parents Think 18-Year-Olds Can Handle Their Health Care

Yet poll says two-thirds think older teens should be able to take charge

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Dec. 15, 2014

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many American parents don't think their teen and young adult children are able to manage their own health care, a new survey finds.

The nationwide poll of parents of children ages 13 to 30 found that a large number believe children should stop seeing their pediatrician and begin going to an adult-focused primary care doctor at age 18 (42 percent). Some thought their children should transition to adult care even before age 18 (27 percent).

However, only 30 percent of parents said their children actually did so by age 18, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

"Making this transition is something virtually all teens and young adults will have to do, but this poll makes it clear that many parents are doubtful that their kids are ready to make the leap at age 18," Emily Fredericks, associate professor of pediatrics, said in a university news release.

While most parents believed their teen and young adult children know how to take medications, they were less confident about their children's ability to do things such as make a doctor's appointment, fill out medical history forms or go to the emergency department, the survey found.

"Less than half of parents think their older teens, 18 to 19 years old, know how to make a doctor's appointment, and only one-quarter of parents believe their teens know what their health insurance covers," Fredericks said.

"This perceived lack of skills may explain why so few teens transition their care by age 18. Parents may realize that becoming an adult at age 18 is not a guarantee that their young adult is suddenly ready to manage their own health care," she added.

Parents can help their teens prepare for this transition by encouraging them to be more involved in their health care. Ways to get them involved include having them make appointments, ask and answer questions during health care visits, and learn what is covered by health insurance, Fredericks suggested.

"Age alone shouldn't be the only factor. Instead, parents and health care providers can partner with adolescents to gradually teach them the self-management skills they need to successfully navigate the health care system," she said.

"Our poll results indicate that transition needs to be a learning process, not a point in time where suddenly teens are ready to be independent when it comes to their health," Fredericks concluded.

More information

The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health has more about teens transitioning to adult care.

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