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How can I approach my relatives when developing a family medical history?

Your family may want to work together on developing your family medical history. Holidays and reunions can provide a good opportunity for you and your relatives to gather information. Not everyone, however, may be comfortable disclosing personal medical information. A number of factors may contribute to a person's reluctance to discuss medical issues, including guilt, shame, and painful memories. Consider the following strategies to address these issues with your relatives:
  • Share your purpose. Explain that you're creating a record to help you determine whether you and your relatives have a family history of certain diseases or health conditions. Offer to make the medical history available to other family members so that they can share the information with their doctors.
  • Provide several ways to answer questions. Some people may be more willing to share health information in a face-to-face conversation. Others may prefer answering your questions by phone, mail or email.
  • Word questions carefully. Keep your questions short and to the point.
  • Be a good listener. As your relatives talk about their health problems, listen without judgment or comment.
  • Respect privacy. As you collect information about your relatives, respect their right to confidentiality. Some people may not want to share any health information with you. Or they may not want this information revealed to anyone other than you and your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.