This weekend, I met with one of my clients. He had a successful bypass surgery three years ago. Now, a few years post-surgery, he has gotten his activity level up to walking on a treadmill three miles per day. He is intent on having better quality of life after the challenges of recovery. However, it seems as though his progress is being discouraged by one (or more) healthcare provider(s).
At a recent doctor’s appointment for a stress test, my client asked his nurse, “When can I get stronger? I want to build some more muscle.” The response: “We do not want you to put on any muscle. We are afraid you will do more than we want you to.” End of conversation. What??
My client was disturbed by this– which is understandable! His healthcare provider(s) gave no explanation about his limitation of activity based on test results, nor did they give him an individualized plan based on his needs. Instead of catering to what my client really wants out of life after surgery, it was simply determined for him.
It’s Your Life…Stand Up for Yourself
I explained to my client that he has the right to tell his healthcare provider what he wants out of life (provided it’s not totally unreasonable). When I asked him what he wanted, he stated two simple things:
- I would like to have the strength to open a jar again.
- I want to be able to walk and feel like I am not going to fall (i.e. balance).
Does this sound unreasonable? These are life’s basics. It’s not like he wants to run marathons or climb Mount Everest. He wants to feel secure with everyday living activities. There is obviously a communication gap here between my client and his healthcare provider(s). It’s a shame they didn’t ask him WHY he wanted to gain strength in the first place.
This is a Two-Way Relationship
This is a good lesson for anybody, because surgeries and health issues come up unexpectedly– it’s part of life. So, if you go into a relationship with your healthcare provider(s) enlightened, it’s better for everybody. Here are some tips for effective communication with doctors, nurses, rehab staff and other providers:
- It is very important for you to discuss with your healthcare provider what you anticipate out of life post-surgery.
- It is critical to determine and work on these goals while in rehab care. This is where you are building up to be functional.
- It is crucial that your healthare provider know exactly how you are progressing. You should be informed of your limitations at every stage of your progress.
- If there are specific restrictions on physical activities, your healthcare provider should give you a proper explanation. If something is not in your best health interests, you deserve a detailed explanation.
You do not have to accept nebulous explanations such as, “We don’t want you to because we are afraid you will do more than we want.” That is not an adult explanation– therefore, unacceptable. It is not educating you on the reasons that certain future activities may not be good for your health. You probably shouldn’t be shoveling snow, right? But that’s another one for the doctor.
In my client’s case, he just wanted to do everyday activities. The healthcare provider should have engaged him about what activities he wanted to do. I encouraged my client to go back to his doctor and communicate clearly: he wants to feel more balanced on his feet, and have more strength for everyday activities like opening a jar. A simple solution will likely be derived– such as going to therapy to gain strength and balance.
In conclusion, if YOU are ever in this situation:
Talk with your doctor/nurse about what your healthcare goals are. Do not accept vague instructions, “WE do not want you do…” without understanding the real reasons. If you are not comfortable being direct and/or assertive with doctors or nurses, have your patient advocate or a family member present when speaking with your healthcare provider.
Healthcare advocates can be extremely helpful for explaining your goals, as well as helping to interpret restrictions and physical limitations doctors may suggest. They will also help you develop a care plan. Learn more about having a healthcare advocate meet with you and your physician .