By Rob Striks, Special Writer Encompass HealthCare and Wound Medicine
I’m a senior patient, but not in terms of age. I have senior-level experience as a patient. Aside from my lousy diet, lack of exercise and imperfect glucose control, I’ve got senior patient down pat.
To become a senior patient, one must first learn how to be a patient. Rule #1 is simply being patient. Doctors run late for dozens of reasons, not the least of which is a patient before you required more time. Plus, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes in doctors’ offices like charting visits, cleaning up the treatment rooms, writing prescriptions, analyzing test results and returning phone calls that it’s actually amazing we don’t have to wait longer.
Once you’ve mastered patience, Rule #2 is to be honest. You should never lie to your doctor and always provide full disclosure of all your health issues. Have you been forgetting to take your beta-blocker before bed? Tell your doctor. Have you noticed unusual bleeding or discharge south of the waistline? Drop your pride or embarrassment and tell. Confidentiality is mandatory in healthcare, if for no other reason than to ensure that patients can talk freely with their doctors without fear of shame or persecution. What your doctor doesn’t know can hurt you. In other words, they can’t help you unless they know all the facts.
Rule #3 is show respect. They’ve passed organic chemistry, anatomy, internship and residency. They’ve sacrificed all of their 20’s and probably some of their 30’s to treat you while subjecting themselves to all your bodily functions and fluids. Certainly, they’ve earned a smile and a handshake from you if you’re not too sick.
Rule #3.5 is show respect to the staff, too. Whether they’re taking your history, your blood pressure or your insurance information, they’re not obstructing you from seeing your doctor. They’re getting everything organized so your office visit runs as smoothly as possible. That’s not to say they’re flawless 100% of the time. Anyone can be off his or her game. I try to remember that they have the built-in job stressor of constantly tending to people who are not at their best that day.
This brings us to Rule #4: be on time. Everybody understands the occasional traffic snarl. But if you’re the patient who is terminally late, you’re probably compromising the quality of your and others’ time with the doctor.
It’s not so hard to be a patient, right? Be good, show some respect and be on time. Now, you’re ready to become a Senior Patient.
The first step is to create a “Prescription Cheat Sheet” of all your medications that you keep in your wallet or purse, plus extra copies to give away to healthcare providers when necessary. When you’re being admitted to a hospital or seeing a new physician for the first time, it’s easy to forget these things. Having them written down reduces the chance that mistakes will be made in your treatment.
Your cheat sheet should include the name of the medication, the dosage, and when you take the medicine. It should look something like this:
On the backside of your prescription cheat sheet, note your ongoing medical conditions and allergies such as:
- Insulin-dependent diabetic
- Heart patient with multiple stents
- Liver disease
- Macular degeneration
- Allergies: Penicillin, Sulfas, peanuts…
Great patients take the time and energy to learn all about their physical problems. Take diabetes for example. Just knowing you have it and taking medicine is not nearly enough. Learning the right foods to eat, how to test sugars and gaining a basic understanding of how the disease works within the body gives you a very powerful advantage over it.
Maybe the most important distinction of a senior patient is he or she pays very close attention to every aspect of their healthcare. For instance, if I had followed my last hospital discharge instructions completely, I might either be having multiple bypass surgery or be dead by now. It turns out one of the heart medications prescribed to me was rendered ineffective by another medication prescribed. The combination of drugs had never been prescribed to me in the past and I asked a few questions.
And somehow, my discharge instructions included all the medications I had taken over the last 10 years, half of which I was no longer taking. How do you get that wrong? Every time I go in for a procedure, I give my updated prescription cheat sheet to the intake person, every physician I see and every nurse who asks. So who’s paying attention? A senior patient assumes nobody is paying attention. We are the only system of checks and balances we have.
Yes, we all need to be on top of our own medical care. And we also need the people caring for us to care enough not to make critical mistakes on our case.
Most importantly, a good senior patient is one who truly wants to get over their illness and is committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal. So if the bandage is not supposed to get wet, then you do whatever it takes to keep it dry. And if you’re supposed to take the oral antibiotic until the medication is gone, then you follow through.
In the end, we’re in this together, my healthcare providers and me. I’m going to take the advice and the medicines. I’ll keep working toward a healthier lifestyle. And they’ll keep leading me there – under my watchful eye, that is.
Just like a good senior patient should.
Tags: confidentiality, Diet, doctor, encompasshealthcare, exercise, illness, medication, patient, prescription