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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why Caregivrs NEED to Close their Mouths - Part 4 of Talk About Your Medicines month


28 Tishrei, 5775

The first month of the new Jewish year is almost over. Thousands of people worldwide resolved to improve their mindsets, behaviors and more.

More people will be doing that as January approaches!

But gosh it's hard to keep up the momentum, over time. So, I'll share a charming idea with you. It's the motto of one of my friends, and she's rather spectacular in her dealings with the wider world.

Be the type of person you want to meet.

Nice, huh?

As you work on bettering your very self, here are some tips for protecting yourself and the person you're caring for, from accidental medical harm, Part 4 of this week's Talk About Your Medicines month series (yes, I highlighted text about medication again so you can locate it easily):

Listen to the Person Before You - Lessons for Caregivers

I'm going to address a troubling problem for ill people: rude and cruel caregivers who pay little, if any, attention to the patient’s remarks. I've witnessed this maddening glitch first-hand as a witness to, and as the victim of, someone's failure to listen.

Many caregivers insist that they are noble, correct and in charge when caring for patients be they friends, relatives or clients. HOWEVER... here's how the conversations between some caregivers and the people they're allegedly caring for tend to go (fill in the blanks as appropriate.):

"I know what you need..."

"I want to..."

"Stop talking. Listen to me; I know what's best for you..."

"I'm going to... Now just stop that and let me..."

"I don't want to hear you say 'I can't.' Would you just let me...?"

Did you hear the sick person above the din? Me neither. And far too often that silence leads to a deteriorating patient who's already ill, and an increasingly strained relationship.

The name of the problem is "Inflated Ego." Or what is sometimes called "I Disease." The caregiver is bossing around the ill person, issuing this barrage of "I, I, I, I," messages while genuine medical needs go unmet. This is not a healthy situation. So, I'm providing a reality alert: The caregiver is NOT the most important person in this scene. The patient is the VIP (Very Important Person) here!

Here's the information that's being drowned out, along with the despairing person who needs medical help:

"That's the wrong medication/food you're giving me."

"You're hurting me when you move me around so hard. I'm not a rock."

"You're still holding the wrong medication/food."

"The doctor said not to do it like that. You're supposed to read the directions."

"You bet I'm upset! Please stop talking/shouting/screaming over me and listen. Just listen!"


Ready to close your mouths and find out how to solve the problem? Great! Hold that pose while the ill person in your care expresses their concerns. Next, wait for him or her to ask you to explain what you heard and understood. Only then may you speak. Get it? Conversation is an interactive activity.

When you enter the ill person's room, do not start talking. Smile. Observe the scene: does the ill person seem tired/rested/content/upset/warm/cold/in or out of pain?

Ask the patient these questions, one at a time: "How are you?" and "Did anything change since we last spoke?" "Please tell me if you want something." Then LISTEN without interrupting as the person responds to you, one question at a time.

Do not treat sick people as fools. Do not threaten them. Do not speak in a condescending manner to people who are sick. You might be dealing with neurological or physiological changes that the patient(s) cannot control. This is not a matter of patient willpower, this is a medical reality. You might not realize the level of physical or emotional pain you're unnecessarily causing to that person. You just might damage someone's already fragile health by using the wrong medicine, medical appliance or food item, let alone the wrong attitude.

Ordering ill people to "Snap out of it! Stop acting sad and sick" is cruel. Behave respectfully or have someone else perform the personal care. Your change in behavior just might improve someone's quality of life. Prevent unwarranted suffering. Remember: communication is supposed to be fair and productive. Good communication ends in relief.

One more item on this sensitive subject: study the sick person's behavior and body when hired help is providing medical care. Elder abuse and other abuses in the medical world exist. Prevent and end them by practicing good sense. Listen with your ears, eyes and heart.

Here’s a handy list of caregiver tips, developed from my personal experience and that of some of my Self-Help Coaching clients:
·         Make a chart of all medications used by the loved one you’re helping. Tactfully help him or her to remember to take those medicines.
·         Ask everyone who enters the patient’s room if they have washed their hands. "No" and silence are NOT acceptable responses.
·         Ask nurses to read drug orders out loud and match them to the patient’s arm bracelet BEFORE giving something to the patient.
·         Bring easily portable stuff on visits: a deck of cards, iPODs or other devices for playing music, or something else that the patient enjoys. Coax the patient to use his or her brain.
·         Keep a little notebook with your observations so you can discuss your concerns with medical staff, family and friends in a productive NOT GOSSIPY manner. Write the notes discreetly. Trust me, sick people notice things. And we tend to be easily upset.
·         NEVER give a patient medication without proper supervision.
·         Don’t help the patient in and out of bed unless the medical staff trained you to do this safely.
·         Help the sick person to escape the confines of being ill. A car ride, a day in the park or gentle beach, perhaps a shopping center with comfortable seating areas, a family event, are just some ideas for trips. Cabin fever can slow down recovery and coping processes. Changes in scenery can work wonders.
·         Cheerfully help with housework: cooking, cleaning, child care, lawn care, etc. Find out if meals can be safely made by other people.
·         Allow the person to speak about their medical/emotional crisis. The release leads to perspective, emotional relief and healing. In mental circles, this is called "venting" and wow it's a great help!
·         Chat with the patient about life. Your work, news headlines, funny incidents, something other than illness.
·         Forgive the person for saying or doing something unusual. Some medications affect behavior and memory, let alone body functions. Thinking clearly might be a struggle for someone coming out of anesthesia or taking medications. The challenging medical situation is a hard thing to manage on its own.
·         Bite your lips! Don’t focus on what your loved one can or cannot do. Infantilizing a person facing a medical or emotional crisis is cruel and harmful. DO FOCUS on what the person can do and intends to do. Meeting goals, and trying to do so, is strengthening in many ways.
·         Assist the person in your care when they’re taking medication. Wipe lips as necessary, and with a gentle touch. Remember also, that eyesight might be affected. He or she I might not be able to read the small print on the bottle.
·         Be gracious about sleeping problems. A person facing illness could have difficulty sleeping. Gently and firmly explore what will help the person to relax, to enjoy restful, restorative sleep.
·         Empower the patient. Let him or her make choices, use the television remote and anything else they’d like to do within reason. Offer to help the person to create a list of goals on a paper or a poster-board they can more easily read. Check off accomplishments and celebrate them.
·         Have patience. Be respectful. Know that you cannot possibly understand the illness experience from the patient’s perspective. Some things are hard to convey. Practice a compassionate pose on your facial muscles. Use it often. 

Yes, it's all about "Be the type of person you want to meet."

By the way, have you noticed that The American Recall Center, which promotes the Talk About Your Medicines month blogging effort, is concerned about the drug Xarelto, "... a medication used to prevent stroke and blood clots that has recently shown to cause internal bleeding?"

Click the title at the end of this sentence to buy the E-book or print edition of EMPOWER Yourself to Cope with a Medical Challenge.  

Face Your Medical Problems with Dignity. Face Your Future with Optimism. 

Fill your future, and everyone's, with more compassion. And better manners.


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