living your best to the end

Medical jargon: even single-syllable words can confound

Who’d’ve thought that simple, one and two-syllable words – which is one of the the criteria for Grade 6 reading level – could cause so much confusion, upset and medication errors. Out of context, even every-day words can confound. Consider these (true) examples: In a maternity unit, expectant mom is thirsty and hungry. When she asked if she could eat or drink anything, nurse, hurrying to the next patient, answered, “only sips and chips.” Later, same nurse saw, with horror, mom eating potato chips, taking sips of a diet soda. To that mom-to-be, those one syllable words didn’t say sips of water and ice chips. Seeing his patient in the wrong hospital unit, Doc says, and patient hears: “We’re going to get you to a different floor.” After doc leaves, worried patient says to nurse, “The floors are so cold. Will I have a blanket on the other floor?” Son, taking his elderly mom to the doctor to have her rash checked out. First visit, no source was identified. Second visit, doctor said rash was static. Until the third visit, 3 months later, when doctor said the words: “the condition of the rash hasn’t changed”, the son had tried to find a fabric softener that’d reduce static in mom’s clothes. Early evening, as I was leaving an office building, one of cleaners in the elevator with me sighed so mournfully I asked if she was ok. “My husband is going for by-pass tomorrow. Last year, the doctor told him to take coated Asprin©. We didn’t understand coated, so he didn’t take it. Now he’s in the hospital.” (Note this...

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients share hope and humour

“I’m 62. I was diagnosed at 46. You do the math” Christine Bryden, Person with Dementia 16 years of living with Alzheimer’s and Christine Bryden’s making the audience of 300 laugh and cry at A Changing Melody: A learning and sharing forum for persons with Early Stage Dementia and their partners in care. No surprise that Alzheimer’s is the second most feared disease (Cancer being #1). What I learned from the Forum helped put that fear into more practical perspective.   On overcoming fear and stigma: Fear of what others may think often prevents getting diagnosis. Get in early and get help early! Your life has meaning. Focus on relationships based on love and connectedness. Don’t let fear mask your worth. Reach out over the barrier of stigma to help overcome fears. (author’s note: doesn’t that apply to many health issues?) (An example from an audience member) “I talk to people in airplanes about having dementia. At first, they simply don’t believe it.”  (love it: educating a captive audience) From Mary McKinley, Canada (who organizes social events at retirement home, she uses an online journal set up by her son.) “Feeling is, we with dementia have no insight. That is so wrong! I have to use drugs to help deal with anxiety in others. Noise and sound are amplified. Multiple conversations are  really hard. Part of my brain that controls anxiety has no sense of proportion; Key words are: SLOW DOWN! The processor in my brain is struggling. When I need I quiet time, hiding out in the bathroom is a solution. However, my brain doesn’t send ‘bathroom’ signals....

5 Steps to a Patient Centered Hospital

Which came first: hospitals or patients? Although filled to the brim with patients, hospitals were created to support doctors, not us patients. Historically, their organizational structure focused on doctors’ needs and doctors’ requirements. The concept of centering hospital care on patient needs and requirements is a relatively recent development. How can a hospital switch from being provider-centered to patient-centered? Shifting such a complicated and cumbersome behemoth a full 180 degrees is a huge undertaking. I believe it can be done. I’ve put much thought into this and feel my 5 steps are do-able and (relatively) easy to implement without interfering with the changes already in evidence organizationally and technologically. My 5 steps were born of an epiphany: Without us patients there would be no hospitals. Without us patients, there’d be no place for: practical teaching developing best practices; or solving health puzzles patients often present. Patients are hospitals’ raison d’être.  Here’s how you can make us feel more like the VIPs we are. 5  Steps to a Patient-Centered Hospital 1. Be Quiet. Quiet. Shhhh. We need a library environment. I don’t want to hear staff shrieking to one another down halls and across nursing stations. You have other options. You can get up and walk over to the person you are addressing or send a text (SMS, IM etc.), a Twitter message or an email. Silence the doors, drawers, cabinets, carts. No more slamming, ramming or bashing. We VIPs have sensitive ears and nerves. I know this quiet can be done. On hospital’s office floors for example, it’s dead quiet. 2. Paint. Hospital colours are depressing. We need something...

Obituaries and those who write them

I’m noticing new approaches to obituaries Defying a history of somber and factual, I’m seeing welcomed injections of humour – including obits written by the deceased.  Before, of course. This means leaving blanks as you can see from above picture. Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach DE is a dead person, he is no more, he is bereft of life, he is deceased, he has wrung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible, he has expired and gone to meet his maker.He drifted off this mortal coil on March 9, 2014 in Punta Gorda, Florida. His spirit was released from his worn out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe.He was surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, who will now be able to purchase the mink coat which he had always refused her because he believed only minks should wear mink. – McGroarty Achieves Room Temperature! Kevin J. McGroarty, 53, of West Pittston, died Tuesday, July 22, 2014, after battling a long fight with mediocracy. He enjoyed elaborate practical jokes, over-tipping in restaurants, sushi and Marx Brother’s movies. He led a crusade to promote area midget wrestling, and in his youth was noted for his many unsanctioned daredevil stunts. A thoroughly irate woman decided to use her obit to vent: It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away. Everyone told me it would happen one day but that’s simply not something I wanted to hear, much less experience. Once again I didn’t get things my way! That’s been the story of...