What is an adult care centre like?

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Find out what to expect at an adult health-care centre including similarities and differences and how you can prepare for the transition.

Key points

  • The main difference between paediatric and adult care is the focus of health; paediatric care is family-centred while adult care is patient-centred.
  • You can prepare for the transition by learning all about your cancer treatment and health history, practicing self-monitoring, managing your own care and being more involved in decision making.
  • You will be responsible for scheduling and attending your own appointments and you will need to call the clinic yourself if you need to reschedule an appointment.

Like some other teenagers, you may be excited about your move to adult care. Or you may be nervous to leave the paediatric team that you have gotten to know so well. Both reactions are normal. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can make your transition smoother.

What are the similarities between paediatric and adult care?

Both paediatric care and adult care are focused on your health. Helping you stay as healthy as possible is the ultimate goal.

What’s the main difference?

The main difference is in the focus of care.

  • Paediatric care is family-centred. Your family may have been with you during appointments and involved in making decisions about your care.
  • Adult care is patient-centred. This means you (the patient) get to take a lead role in making decisions and managing your health. You get to be empowered to take care of yourself! While this may be a bit overwhelming at first, it’s a great opportunity to start gaining some independence.

Your health-care provider will expect to hear from you and will ask you questions directly. You may be expected to attend appointments on your own, but you can request that a family member or close friend come in with you for support.

How can I prepare for the transition?

Transition takes time, so it is best to start as early as possible. Your health-care team will help you. You can prepare for the transition by:

  • learning all about your cancer and your health history (like you have been doing throughout this program)
  • practicing self-monitoring and describing your symptoms in appointments
  • managing your medications, scheduling appointments, and making healthy lifestyle choices
  • getting to know your cancer treatment history and being able to give a three-sentence summary of your health
  • answering questions in appointments; being involved in making decisions; and, over time, spending part or all of the appointment alone with your health-care provider
  • starting to learn about your health insurance and the types of treatments it covers

Many teenagers and young adults feel better knowing they are in control. Learning the skills to help with this process can take time; but, in the end, these skills can help you achieve your goals for the future.

Some teenagers find it easier to have a checklist of tasks or goals to help prepare for their health-care transition. Have a look at this transition checklist. It can help you keep on track.

Transition programs

Some hospitals have special staff, clinics or programs that help teenagers develop the skills they need to prepare for a health-care transition. Your paediatric team may be able to arrange for you to meet your new adult provider, or have a tour of the clinic, before your first appointment. You may also be able to arrange for a tour of your new clinic or hospital yourself.

What is it like in an adult centre?

  • Adult centres usually do not have the same bright colours on the walls, or games and things to do in the waiting rooms.
  • Most of the other patients in adult care will be much older than you.
  • If you need to stay in the hospital, you probably won’t have your own room, unless your health insurance can pay for that.
  • If you are staying overnight, there is typically a fee to watch television at most adult hospitals; and they do not rent video games. Prepare ahead, and make sure you bring along things to entertain yourself, especially if you know in advance that you are going to be admitted.

Making and keeping appointments

In adult care, the responsibility to make and keep appointments lies with you, the patient. If you need to miss an appointment, it is your responsibility to call the clinic and reschedule. This is different from many paediatric clinics, where they will call you or your family if you miss an appointment. Your follow-up appointments are very important, so it is a priority to attend them.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019