Is what they heard, What you said?

Today, I was once again, made aware of the fact that medical practitioners need to be clear and ensure that the patients, and/or their family/caregivers, understand what is happening with them, to them and what the plan is, AND to be a part of the team that forms the plan. So often an elderly person goes to the doctor, is evaluated, findings are reviewed and plan is made and yet when that person and his/her caregive leave the office, they are not sure what they heard.

A friend fell and broke her shoulder last week. She went to the er and said she broke the cap above her shoulder. Now in layman's terms, what did she break? Did she actually brake her humeral head? or did she break the acromium? or what. She was really upset because this had happened years ago to the other shoulder and she went through surgery with rods, and finally replacement. After seeing the orthopedist, she felt better. He said there are new techniques and they put a cast on her arm to give her a type of traction and "helping" it to heal, would see her this week, xray and see if this technique was working. She felt relieved and he was very nice, she said.He increased her pain pill dosage, without ordering more pills, so they probably would not last, but being who she is and believing that doctors always have her best interest, didn't say anything, until she saw she was going to run out Sunday night after the pharmacies close.

Today, going to try to get more pain pills, she receives a phone call that she will be having surgery on Friday. Surgery? I thought they were trying a new technique to avoid surgery? What type of surgry? a replacement again? And now they are having to go in for pre op on Thursday. None of this was mentioned last week. So now, stress is taking over and she is in the bathroom trying to throw up as she has not been eating, pain had taken apetite away, taking strong pain pills and did I say, they just called her and told her she was scheduled for surgry on Friday--a surgery she knew nothing about.

Now maybe he thinks he told her, but that is not good enough. Maybe he did tell her, but if she doesn't understand, that is not good enough. An eye md told a patient that there was a chance that with the changes he was seeing that the person could develop glaucoma--a 20% chance. Now with that statement, we can look at it and see an 80% chance they won't, but that person only heard the 20% chance of developing glaucoma--so very upset, sobbing. When I heard what had happened I called the physician and told him. He said,"I said 20% chance". that is correct. That is what he said, but did the patient hear what he said?  We need to really make sure, when we speak to someone about his/her health, not only that we do the right things and say the right things, but that what they "hear" are the right things, too. Often times the communication loop may not have been connected and stress can do bad things, especially in the world of health.
-----E. Anne Melvin, PT,
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