It’s not the label; it’s the connection that can make a world of difference in defeating health challenges.
Whether they are taking notes, clarifying explanations or just offering a shoulder of support, a concerned caregiver makes a difference.
Encouragement, peer pressure or whatever dynamic is at work, it’s always good to have others involved in medical care, said Dr. Victor Schmelzer, Medical Director of St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute. It can be a wife, husband, parent, child or whomever.
At St. Elizabeth’s public presentations on health issues, the audience is often made up of pairs: friends, mother-daughter, siblings and spouses. People have questions and take advantage of the opportunity to ask experts and process the information. Dr. Michael J. Osborn, a cardiologist with the Mayo Clinic, said at a recent panel discussion that “The more you hear, the more you assimilate.”
It doesn’t end at meetings or in the doctor’s office. Family members have the opportunity to understand the message and the impact. “Say for example, it’s a program on lung health. And you are talking about lung cancer or COPD, which is very prevalent in our community, and the importance of smoking cessation. It’s a very important concept that they can reinforce with other members of the family at home because quite often other members of the family smoke,” said Schmelzer.
Families can remind patients of timing and amount of medications or what to avoid eating or drinking. Having company in the waiting room or during a test can ease the stress of waiting for answers.
Whether they offer encouragement, support or subtler peer pressure, it’s always good to have that support network.
Tips for helping someone with a medical condition:
- Take notes
- Listen closely to the doctor
- Ask for clarification
- Record medications
- Understand treatment options
- Be generous with hugs and smiles