For Patients and Families
Transitioning to Adult Healthcare
Somewhere between the ages of 18 and 21, most of our adolescent patients will leave Seattle Children’s and begin seeing providers who care for adults.
Ideally, this will not be an abrupt change, but a gradual shift. It will look different for each patient and family, depending on their abilities and needs.
Use the information and resources here to help you and your teenager prepare for this transition. Know that your adolescent’s care team is a key partner in this process. Share your hopes, concerns and questions with them.
When and how should we start thinking about the transition from adolescent to adult healthcare?
This is a process you may want to begin thinking about as your child enters their teens.
The actual age for when they will transition may vary by clinic or specialty or diagnosis. Here are some resources to help you think about what to expect:
- Checklist for Transitioning to Adult Health Care (PDF) – Seattle Children’s Family Advisory Council
- What Is Healthcare Transition and FAQs – Got Transition
Transition Starters for Everyone – Center for Parent Information and Resources
What legal and financial changes should we expect?
Beginning at age 13, youth gain rights to consent and confidentiality for certain kinds of care. Talk to your teen’s care team to learn more about what this means for you and your teen.
When patients turn 18, they become responsible for their own healthcare – even if they are still being seen here.
Patients with developmental or cognitive disabilities may not be able to take responsibility for their healthcare when they turn 18. Your family might want to look into guardianship or other options for decision-making.
- Turning 18: What It Means for Your Health – Got Transition
- Supported Decision-Making: Alternatives to Guardianship (PDF) – Informing Families
- Guardianship Information Packet (PDF) – Arc of King County
- Special Needs Trusts and Wills Information Packet (PDF) – Arc of King County
Remember that medical insurance coverage and financial assistance may change as adolescents become adults, and depending on where they will be receiving care.
How will my teen learn to manage their own healthcare?
As your child matures, they will learn new skills and become more independent in how they understand and manage their own care. You and your care teams can work together with your teen to make sure they are safe and comfortable with each new skill.
Here is some information and tools to help:
- Transition Readiness Assessment for Parents and Caregivers – Got Transition
- For Teens: How to Ask Your Doctor About Transitioning to Adult Care – Got Transition
- Video: Helping Teens Take Responsibility for Their Own Healthcare – Boston Children’s Hospital
- Health Management Skills Assessment (PDF) – Center for Children With Special Needs
- For Teens: Healthcare Transition Plan (PDF) – Center for Children With Special Needs
How will my young adult find and choose their new providers?
It is important they choose a primary care doctor and specialty providers they trust and feel comfortable with. Ask your pediatric providers if they have recommendations or will make referrals.
How will medical records and information be transferred to a new provider?
You and your adolescent can work with their Seattle Children’s care team to prepare a medical summary and plan of care to be shared with new providers. Also think about information that might be important to emergency care teams. Work with your care team to determine which records need to be transferred to the new providers.
Examples of medical summary and care plan forms:
- Portable Medical Summary (PDF) – Center for Children With Special Needs
- In Case of Emergency (PDF) (Spanish) – Center for Children With Special Needs
- Medical Summary and Emergency Care Plan – Got Transition
- My Health Passport – Hospital for Sick Children
For Youth With Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities
- Transition to Adulthood Resources – Arc of King County
- Transition From School to Adulthood (PDF) – Arc of King County
- Transition Planning Checklist for Life After High School (PDF) – Arc of King County