Do you hear what you want to hear?


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Are you always being honest with yourself?

A friend told me the story of her mother’s recent visit to the doctor: In reviewing the result of the patient’s blood work, the patient’s blood sugar control was not a good as it should be (referring to the hemoglobin A1C results). The patient promised to be better and the doctor conceded to let her continue with her lifestyle changes and no medication as a result of this visit. The doctor’s instructions/orders: no desserts except for birthdays; the patient agreed. No problem, just birthdays.

What the doctor didn’t know: this patient has six children, all married, 17
grandchildren, many of whom are also married, and 23 great-grand children! With that much family, she averages a birthday a week, sometimes more. This doesn’t include the birthday’s she celebrates with her friends – she can’t leave out her friends. Giggling about this, she also said she could perhaps stand outside Wal-Mart and ask everyone when his or her birthday is, so when she had her dessert every day, she could say “This is for Tracy’s birthday, the woman I met at Wal-Mart.”And she honestly was not going against her doctor’s wishes.

Many of you have heard the story of my grandmother, of when diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 79, asked her oncologist, at the same appointment he was giving her treatment options, if she needed to quit smoking. He told her, “I’d like you to.” (Personally, I think he was just stunned by the question.) She said, “He didn’t say ‘yes’.” She did quit a short time later but it was only because you can’t smoke in the ICU.

The point I am making here is for both the practitioners AND the patients/clients:

Practitioners: We must be literal with our patients. And, be careful with what you say, and how you say it. If we aren’t careful with what we say the patients, knowing full well what we mean, will take our words literally. We need to be specific. For example, don’t tell someone  they can have a hamburger “once in a while” or “on occasion.” Your “once in a while” or “on occasion” may mean one a month while their “once in a while” may mean every 48 hours.

Don’t speak in jargon. We must admit that we do speak in jargon, and may not realize it. Ask our patients and clients if they understand what we are saying.

Patients/clients: A lot of times our patients/clients know what their health professionals are telling them, but they choose to believe otherwise. If you truly don’t know what your practitioner is telling you, ASK. Do you really think that a hamburger every other day is fine? If you don’t know what your practitioner means by “once in a while” then ASK him or her. Really.

Also, when you don’t give your health care practitioner the truth, aren’t forthcoming, or have led yourself to believe something that isn’t entirely correct, you aren’t helping yourself. And we can’t help you be healthier. By this I mean don’t say, “I exercise all the time,” when you really mean, “I was an athlete in high school” or “I sit in a chair on the side-line of my kid’s soccer game and watch them exercise.” Driving you kids around to their activities makes you active but that isn’t exercise. (I am a parent, I know.)

Both sides need to get better with communicating, getting more clear with what they mean, and being more honest with themselves and their healthcare providers.

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