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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Listen. Listen to the Person Before You.

18 Tevet 5768

I'm posting about another troubling problem for ill people. 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 beween 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.

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. 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 uwarranted suffering. Remember: communication is supposed to be fair and productive. Good communication ends in relief. See the smiles here?

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.


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Coping with a Medical Crisis?
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