Q.: My 80-year-old aunt suggested that we have a family get-together to figure out who has had cancer in our family and who has been lucky enough to avoid it.
She just underwent a period of radiation as part of a cancer treatment. I'm more worried about who can check in on her because she's living alone.
Should we humor her and figure out all our relatives' health problems?
A.: Your aunt has a great idea.
Gathering a comprehensive health history of your family can be a life-saving gift to future generations of your family. It takes time and effort to do it well.
The Surgeon General's "My Family Health Portrait" tool can help you and your family collect and organize family health history information, and allows you to share this information easily with your doctor.
This information can help your doctor, or a doctor caring for other family members, decide which tests and screenings are recommended to better assess health risks.
If you are concerned about a disease running in your family, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests collecting your family's health history and talking to your doctor at your next visit.
A doctor can evaluate all of the factors that may affect your risk of some diseases, including family health history, and can recommend ways to reduce that risk. A family health history makes sense because:
Family members share genes, behaviors, lifestyles and environments, which together may affect their risk of developing health problems.
Most people have a family health history of common chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, heart disease or diabetes) and other health conditions (e.g., high blood pressure and high cholesterol).
A person with a close relative affected by a chronic disease may have a higher risk of developing that disease than a person who does not have an affected relative.
After collecting your information, update it from time to time.
Before you sit down and figure out a family health history, perhaps you and your relatives could check out how a Home Instead CAREGiver could help your aunt.
The benefits are numerous: assistance with food preparation, light housekeeping, errands, medication reminders and, most important to many seniors, companionship.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or go to www.homeinstead.com.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.
Additional senior information, including a monthly listing of menus and events, is available in Senior Sun, which is published on the third Wednesday of each month.