teen boy talking with medical provider

Healthcare Transition for Young Adults: The World of Family Medicine

Some healthcare apps for families and young adults:

It’s hard to say which is harder: “graduating” from teenager to independent adult, or being the parent releasing a child into adulthood. If the “child” has an intellectual disability, there are even more challenges:

For the young adult, learning independent-living skills is harder.

For the parent, instinct to (over)protect is stronger.  

It helps to plan for transition well in advance—preferably with help from objective third parties. Make an honest assessment of:

  • What your children can and can’t do for themselves.
  • How much supervision, if any, they really need.
  • What changes will be unavoidable. For example: will your child have to leave their familiar pediatrician for an adult-health doctor?

The answer to that last question is, “Not necessarily.” It’s often possible to transition to adult healthcare without changing doctors—if your primary care provider is a family-medicine specialist.

Advantages of Using a Family Practice

Family medicine, as defined by the Oxford Languages dictionary, is “the branch of medicine designed to provide basic healthcare to all the members of a family.” In other words, “family medicine” or “family practice” doctors are trained to care for all ages, from pediatric to geriatric.

If your young-adult child struggles with change, having a family-medicine doctor can eliminate one “upset” to the familiar. Plus:

  • The young adult’s medical history also stays in one place, removing many information-transfer concerns.
  • Your whole family can use the same practice, making it easier to coordinate travel and appointments.
  • If your child’s doctor is also your doctor, the medical practice has ongoing information on family and genetic issues—often an important factor in health decisions.

Points to Consider

Of course, nothing is free of disadvantages, nor is every family doctor everything your family needs. There are family doctors who actually know little about young patients, or disabilities, or your family’s key concerns. Or perhaps there is no family practice within twenty miles of your area, and heavy traffic still provokes your eighteen-year-old to meltdown.

If your family or child needs a new doctor for any reason, answer the following questions before making a choice. Better yet, have your child answer the questions personally. At any age, but especially on the edge of adulthood, responsible decision-making is an important skill to practice.

  • How convenient are the hours and location? Can you schedule appointments for less busy hours?
  • How much experience does the doctor actually have with patients your child’s age? With the next stage your child will age into?
  • What are your child’s specialized needs? Is the doctor prepared to deal with those? With changes in needs as your child grows older?
  • What do your family members feel in the presence of the current patients, nurses, doctors, and office atmosphere? “Trust your gut” is a sound principle, even if a “logical” explanation eludes.

Resources for More Information

Finally, understand that even without a change in doctors, going from pediatric to adult healthcare is a transition. Besides talking with your doctor, you and your young adult can learn more about what to expect through the following resources:

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