Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Talking with the Doctor

There is much to be gained by improving communication with health care professionals, especially physicians. Positive outcomes include: better care for the patient, less stress and illness for the caregiver, more efficient use of doctors’ time, reduced cost for the health care system, and more satisfaction for all concerned. Here are some tips for improving communication with your doctor. Try them on your next visit. Write questions down so you won’t forget them. Think about the main reason for your visit and what you expect from the doctor as you prepare for your visit. Making a list in advance increases the likelihood your office visit will meet your needs. Be clear about what you want to say to the doctor. Try not to ramble. Discuss your main concerns first. This is important because if you wait until the end of your appointment there may not be time to properly deal with the main reasons for your visit. If you have lots of things to talk about, make a consultation appointment, so the doctor can allow enough time to meet with you in an unhurried way. Educate yourself about your disease or disability. With all the information on the Internet it is easier than ever before. Learn the routine at your doctor’s office and/or the hospital so you can make the system work for you not against you. Introduce yourself to the doctor’s office staff. Getting to know the staff often means better service. Recognize that not all questions have answers – especially those beginning with “why”. Separate your anger and sense of importance about not being able to help your loved one as much as you would like from your feelings about the doctor. Remember, you are both on the same side. Appreciate what the doctor is doing to help and say thank you from time to time. Every doctor visit and treatment presents you with choices; here are some common situations and tips for responses: The doctor has prescribed a specific treatment for your condition, but you aren’t feeling much better. Maybe it’s the wrong treatment for you, or maybe you’re taking the right treatment in the wrong way. Ask about alternatives for any treatment you find burdensome, such as a medication that must be taken in the middle of the night. Ask for clarification about the diagnosis and treatment plan and the reasons the doctor recommends it, what the treatment will accomplish, and restrictions on activities, food, or driving the and reasons for the restrictions. Find out about recovery and how long it will take to get back to normal, not just to feel better. The side effects seem worse than the cure. If you’re concerned about the side effects of medication on your health or well-being, let your doctor know. Perhaps there is a different treatment that is just as effective without the side effects. Don’t keep quiet about it – your health may suffer. A recommended treatment makes you uneasy. Don’t rush into important health decisions. Usually there will be time to carefully examine your alternatives. Ask, “Why do I need this surgery?” or “Are there any alternatives to this treatment?” or “What are the risks and benefits?” Get a second opinion if necessary. Remember, there is a better chance of getting a second opinion of you ask for it than if you don’t ask. Get your questions answered. Ask about tests and treatments and the reasons for them. What do you expect to learn from the test? When can I expect to hear the results of the tests? How will I feel afterward? Are there any other options to having this test? You want to build a partnership with the physician and other health care providers. I hope these tips help you improve your comfort when talking to your doctor.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Calling all Caregivers!

Millions of Americans are providing care and support for a parent, spouse, friend, or neighbor – who need help because of a limitation in their physical, mental, or cognitive functioning. Not enough attention is given to family caregivers who provide 85% of all care to the frail and disabled. At least 17.7 million individuals in the United States are family caregivers of someone age 65 and older who has a significant impairment. Are you one of them? The circumstances of individual caregivers are extremely varied – they may live nearby or far away from their loved one; they may provide care occasionally, daily, or for a long duration; they may help with household tasks or self-care activities, or they may provide care for complex medical conditions; or they may be responsible for all of these activities. The impact of caregiving on families cannot be ignored. Current research is finding that taking care of tired caregivers could be as important as providing care for their loved ones. Caregivers often completely change their lifestyle to take care of those they love. It is well known that caring for a family member with a chronic illness such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or other diseases is stressful and can take an enormous physical and emotional toll on caregivers. Are you feeling stretched caring for a loved one? Did you know that over a six week period you can take part in a training program designed with you, the caregiver in mind? Powerful Tools for Caregivers is an educational series designed to provide you with the tools you need to take care of yourself. You will learn to: Improve confidence as a caregiver Better communicate Reduce stress Increase your ability to make tough decisions Locate helpful resources Balance your life The classes are offered on Wednesdays beginning April 4th and running through May 9th from 1:00 pm – 3:30pm. Sessions will be held at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport, NY 14094. Two experienced class leaders will conduct each session. Interactive lessons, discussions and brainstorming will help you take the “tools” you choose and put them into action for your life. The cost for the six-week program is $25 and includes a copy of The Caregiver Help book, but is covered in full for members of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of WNY and Independent Health. Pre-Registration is required - Call Erie County Senior Services at (716) 858-2177 or email caregiver@erie.gov for more information and to register. Additional classes are also being scheduled; additional classes can be found at www2.erie.gov/seniorservices. Powerful Tools for Caregivers is co-sponsored by The University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions and the Erie County Caregiver Coalition.