Containing the Bothersome

Denise

Containing the Bothersome

Denise

Yesterday, a friend described a recent visit to her grandmother's doctor. My friend shared concerns with the doctor that her grandmother choked when she ate. The doctor waved off her concerns until my friend stood her ground and received a referral to a gastroenterologist.

A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation to students in the masters degree social work program at the University of Chicago. One of the students just completed her internship at a local hospital. As I shared my data and stories about family caregivers, I could see a light bulb go off for her, that she saw family caregivers in a new light. "We learn to contain family caregivers in the hospital," she explained, "so they are out of our way."

I'm still thinking about the training I attended last week. (Read: What's Your Caregiving Personality?) The assessment tool also took a negative view of family caregivers and determining their value based on whether or not their caree remains out of the nursing home. The assessment looks for the negative rather than finding and growing the strengths of family caregivers.

So interesting to hear a story and perspective that we've often felt: That we often can feel silenced and minimized in health care settings.

For an industry focused on outcomes, the health care industry could greatly improve its outcomes by embracing our insights and skills as well as by helping us be better. It seems the system has decided we waste their time so we must be kept in a corner. Taking time to engage with us and ask us about our insights actually saves time because we know what will work and what won't work. Taking time to include us saves money because we know what will work and what won't work.

What if, rather than containing us, they included us? What is we became an official member of the care team? What if the question wasn't about us feeling so fried that we think of nursing home placement but about us feeling so supported that we stay empowered?

Horrible infections are to be contained. Family caregivers, the wheels that push the health care system and contain health care costs, are to be involved and respected.