A couple weeks ago my lawnmower broke.  I’ve been struggling with it most of the season because I’ve had trouble starting it.  The upshot has been a summer of physical therapy due to bicep tendonitis.  Ouch!!

The good news is I’ve found great professional support for my bicep tendinitis.

My physical therapist, Curtis at Assessment Rehabilitation Management (ARM), is incredibly skilled at teaching me exercises that really help.  I’ve also found an amazing massage therapist, Tish Heath,  who uses many healing modalities leaving me pain free when she’s done.

Pausing here for a moment to invite you to think of your own health as I relay this story and see if you can substitute your own set of issues (or those of your loved one) for mine as I continue my story.

The bad news is that the lawn mower couldn’t be fixed.  I really appreciated having it because it was lightweight and easy to use.

However, here’s the silver lining.  Midwest Power Equipment is a locally owned company and they have bent over backwards to help me.  John, one of the owners, has been to my home three times bringing with him 4 lawnmowers for me to try out to find one to suit my needs.

I felt really embarassed about being such a “weakling”; the story I told myself was I am way too high maintenance which of course just made me feel even more ashamed about not being able to just work with any lawnmower.  Though my son is home off and on, I hate asking for help – I guess my pride gets in the way.  I choose to mow it myself as I’ve got bigger financial priorities.

Most people think of lawnmowers in terms of how they cut their grass.  Because of my tendonitis, I think of lawnmowers in terms of how heavy they are and whether I can manage them without feeling like I’m being tortured.  I also know better than to think that I’m the only one who has issues like this and yet I still feel so ashamed to admit that I need help.

And isn’t that why we’re all here on this earth together?  We’re here to help each other and that’s exactly what has happened to me.

John has been endlessly patient with me as I’ve given him feedback.  One was too heavy, another almost pulled my arms out of the sockets as it dragged me across the lawn (we had a good laugh on that one), and  another had a pull cord which I absolutely refuse to ever deal with again.  We finally found one that is a battery powered lawnmower with no pull cord that meets my needs.

When we struggle with our physical or mental health, not only do we need good healthcare providers but we need help with the practical things of life.  How we handle daily life, including maintaining our homes and taking care of our loved ones, deeply affects our self esteem and sense of independence.

John would love to help more people like me who need to take care of their lawns and have health issues. He said he learned a lot from dealing with me because he never realized how painful mowing a lawn can be.  I found his attitude welcoming and refreshing.

I am passionate about helping those struggling with their health find ways to mow their lawn, play with their kids and enjoy their lives in ways that matter to them, without injuring themselves. 

I want to introduce John to my healthcare providers so they can link their patients up with Midwest Power Equipment so they can get personalized service at reasonable prices.  I want all local healthcare providers to know Curtis and the staff of Assessment Rehabilitation Management (ARM) and also Tish Heath.

I’m not sure how to link up great professionals with each other – because I sense there is a big network of good people who should know about each other – but I’m very open to suggestions.  In the meantime, I’ll be making some phone calls to introduce these three to each other.

I have been blessed with some amazingly talented resourceful professionals as I deal with my own health issues.

Finding the good in other people and our own circumstances is often overlooked.   It’s been hard having hand and arm pain; it truly cramps my style.  I won’t tell you it’s a picnic to mow my lawn.  However, I will tell you that my team of healthcare professionals as well as John from Midwest Power Equipment has truly been a Godsend to me and for that I’m very grateful.

Although I’ve shared my own story, I invite you to think about yourself or someone you love who may be struggling with a health issue.  What comes to mind as I say that?  What’s been hard about this?  What’s the silver lining?   Is there someone who has made your experience a little bit easier?  It would be great if you’d like to share your resources here by leaving a comment below.  You may also want to tell those kind people how grateful you feel – I know they will appreciate your feedback.

 

PATIENT POWER:  FEEL BETTER QUICKER AT YOUR DOCTOR  APPOINTMENT

 

Bring your current health concerns with you.   I’ll help you express yourself clearly so you’re more likely to feel better quicker.

 

You’ll learn how to:

 

  • Clearly and concisely share your symptoms and ask for the help you need
  • Prevent misunderstandings and be pro-active about your healthcare concerns
  • Completely understand your doctor’s suggestions and instructions

 

 

When:               Monday, May 14th, 2012

          Time:                 7-8:15PM

         Where:              Full Spectrum Family Medicine

                                       2025 Abbott Rd, Ste 100, East Lansing, MI 48823

        Facilitator:     Char Brooks, Patient Advocate

Price:          $18  Register with Full Spectrum Family Medicine

                                                                                                     by calling 517-333-3550

 

 

Char’s system works with any health concern or healthcare provider.  By the end of this class, you’ll feel prepared to get your healthcare needs met in an easier, more efficient way.

Please join me as I hold this workshop at Full Spectrum Family Medicine –  learn how to accurately and quickly track what’s going on with you so you can feel better quicker.

Drum roll. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

PATIENT POWER:GET THE HEALTHCARE YOU DESERVE

This class shows you how to record and give your doctor the most complete up to date information on your medical history, effects of medications, current symptoms and concerns so your doctor can make recommendations that fit your needs.

You will learn how to:

● Easily track and update your medical history including dates of past surgeries, illnesses, and allergies so that you can accurately share this information with your doctor
● Efficiently keep track of how changes in your medications are affecting you, which gives your doctor specific information so they can customize their recommendations to fit your unique situation
● Clearly, concisely share your symptoms and ask for the help you need
● Make sure you and your doctor understand each other so you can make the choices that are right for you

Date: Monday, April 16th and 23rd, 2012
Time: 7:00 – 8:30PM
Place: Full Spectrum Family Medicine
2025 Abbott Rd, Suite 100, East Lansing, MI 48823
Facilitator: Char Brooks, Patient Advocate
Price: $50 (includes Patient Power: Get the Healthcare You Deserve)

To Register, contact Full Spectrum at 517-333-3550

Hope to see you soon.

I am thrilled to be presenting these two workshops at the office of Dr. Wendy and William Page-Echols, who own Full Spectrum Family Medicine in East Lansing, Michigan.

Drum roll number one. . . . . . . . Register by calling Full Spectrum at 517-333-3550 between 9-5 (off between 12-1) weekdays.

PATIENT POWER: FEEL BETTER QUICKER AT YOUR DOCTOR APPOINTMENT

Bring your current health concerns with you. I’ll help you express yourself clearly so you’re more likely to feel better quicker.

You’ll learn how to:

● Clearly and concisely share your symptoms and ask for the help you need
● Prevent misunderstandings and be pro-active about your healthcare concerns
● Completely understand your doctor’s suggestions and instructions

When: Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Time: 7-8:15PM
Where: Full Spectrum Family Medicine
2025 Abbott Rd, Ste 100, East Lansing, MI 48823
Facilitator: Char Brooks, Patient Advocate
Price: $18
Register with Full Spectrum Family Medicine at 517-333-3550

Char’s system works with any health concern or healthcare provider. By the end of this class, you’ll feel prepared to get your healthcare needs met in an easier, more efficient way.

——————————————————
And drum roll number two. . . . .

PATIENT POWER:GET THE HEALTHCARE YOU DESERVE

This class shows you how to record and give your doctor the most complete up to date information on your medical history, effects of medications, current symptoms and concerns so your doctor can make recommendations that fit your needs.

You will learn how to:

● Easily track and update your medical history including dates of past surgeries, illnesses, and allergies so that you can accurately share this information with your doctor
● Efficiently keep track of how changes in your medications are affecting you, which gives your doctor specific information so they can customize their recommendations to fit your unique situation
● Clearly, concisely share your symptoms and ask for the help you need
● Make sure you and your doctor understand each other so you can make the choices that are right for you

Date: Monday, April 16th and 23rd, 2012
Time: 7:00 – 8:30PM
Place: Full Spectrum Family Medicine
2025 Abbott Rd, Suite 100, East Lansing, MI 48823
Facilitator: Char Brooks, Patient Advocate
Price: $50 (includes Patient Power: Get the Healthcare You Deserve)

To Register, contact Full Spectrum at 517-333-3550

Hope to see you soon.

Read the rest of this entry »

PATIENT POWER: FEEL BETTER QUICKER AT YOUR DR’S APPOINTMENT

Bring your current health concerns with you. I’ll help you express yourself clearly so you’re more likely to feel better quicker.

You’ll learn how to:

● Prepare For Your Appointment Effectively
● Remember The Most Important Things
● Clearly Understand What Your Doctor Says


When: Saturday, February 4th, 2011
Time: 1-2:15PM
Where: Fellowship for Today
2722 E. Michigan Ave., Ste. 101, Lansing, MI 48912
Facilitator: Char Brooks, Patient Advocate
Price: $15
Pre-registration encouraged by calling 517-337-4070 or emailing char@the-first-step.com

Char’s system works with any health concern or healthcare provider.

By the end of this class you will:
• Feel confident that you’ve expressed yourself clearly
• Work together with your provider so you feel better quicker

Char Brooks helps you communicate more clearly with your healthcare provider so you can feel better more quickly with less stress. Her training includes being an attorney, life coach and patient advocate. She is also the author of Patient Power: Get The HealthCare You Deserve. You can learn more about Char’s work at www.the-first-step.com

PATIENT POWER:

PREPARING FOR YOUR DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT

 

Bring your current health concerns with you and I’ll help you express yourself clearly so you’re more likely to feel better quicker.

 

 

In this brief experiential class, you’ll learn how to:

 

  • Prepare For Your Appointment Effectively
  • Remember The Most Important Things
  • Clearly Understand What Your Doctor Says

Date:  Thursday, January 19th, 2011

Time:  12-1:15PM

Place:  Fellowship for Today

               2722 E. MichiganAve., Ste. 101, Lansing, MI 48912

Facilitator:  Char Brooks, Patient Advocate

Price:  $15

Pre-registration encouraged by calling 517-337-4070 or emailing info@fellowshipfortoday.org

 

 

Char’s system works with any health concern or healthcare provider.

 

You will walk away feeling confident that you’ve expressed yourself clearly and increased the likelihood that you and your provider are working together to help you feel your best.

If you have questions, let me know so I can be sure and cover them in class.  Hope to see you there!

 

We can all pretty much agree that the health care system is broken. Whether you are a patient, a provider or staff member things are not running smoothly these days. Administrative headaches with insurance companies, miscommunications and general frustration are pretty much the norm. This is the unfortunate way things are at the moment.

I hold out hope, though, that this is not the way things will always be. That there will be shifts and changes over time – just like the days of Marcus Welby have morphed into a situation like this where no one’s needs are being met much of the time.  Somehow things got out of control. And I trust that somehow things will start working better again.

It’s a tangled mess at the moment and you have to start somewhere.

I believe the place to start is with us as health consumers.

That is why I have created Patient Power:  Get the Healthcare You Deserve – you can get the information you need, make sure you and your provider understand each other easily, without getting overwhelmed and frustrated.

I see my job as helping those of you who want to lead full active lives manage your health in ways that work for you.  Whether you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or arthritis, are struggling with niggling aches and pains or have something more serious, I want to support you in getting your needs met by your healthcare provider.

What this means is that rather than take an adversarial approach that the health care system is broken and healthcare providers need to step up to the plate, we as healthcare consumers need to partner with them.

How can we get our needs met for good quality healthcare?

It is our responsibility – even when we are sick, angry, frustrated, scared or overwhelmed – to communicate what’s going on with us clearly so that our healthcare providers can apply their professional expertise to our unique situation.

Without giving them the information they need in a way they can hear it, they cannot effectively help us.

That is both the very good news and the not so good news.

If we do a good job giving them concise information about our symptoms, the effects of medications we’re taking, what makes things harder for us, and what we want help with – we have a good chance of getting our needs met as long as we have a good working relationship.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that there are times where we can communicate concisely and clearly, and still not get our needs met.

When that is the case, it’s time to look at whether we have the right healthcare provider.  That can be a very difficult experience particularly when we’re not feeling well and need their help.  And that is the bad news. . . and at the same time is very good information to have so that we can move forward and find the right provider.

Either way, good clear concise objective information and making our requests known will help us all work together.

I want you to remember you are not a patient.  You are a person – and a healthcare consumer from time to time – but first and foremost you are a person with lots of activities, interests, and passions.

No one wants or needs to define themselves as a patient.  From time to time – sometimes more often than we like – we assume the role of a patient.

And when we need help and use the healthcare system, we then don the garb of a patient.  During those times, we need to step into the consumers shoes that we are wearing and strut our stuff by modeling clear concise communication skills to get our needs met.

It all boils down to how YOU take responsibility for getting your own needs met – and when we all do that, then we have a lot more satisfied healthcare consumers.  And that is my ultimate goal.

And that is what everyone wants:  you want help to feel better and your provider wants to use their professional skills to help you.

There is a big movement right now where healthcare providers and patients seem to be polarized.  Many healthcare providers feel overworked and underpaid.  Many patients are outraged by how slowly the wheels of healthcare turn and how difficult it is to get the help they need. There is an easier, more efficient way.

Here are some tips to get your needs met as a healthcare consumer:

  • Figure out what issue you need help with, what makes your symptoms worse and what makes things easier. Use the Appointment Preparation Worksheet ahead of time so that you remember everything.
  • Share facts about what’s going on with you rather than stories. Here’s an example of a fact:  My hands hurt when I type. I get shooting pains in all my fingers that go up through both my hands.
  • Bring a list of all of your medications and supplements to your appointment.
  • If you’ve done research on your condition, bring a specific list of questions that you have rather than asking them to read your research material during the appointment. You can bring  a copy of your research with you if you want and ask them to read it later and have it available in case they ask for it.
  • If you don’t have a definite diagnosis or if you’re unsure, always ask your provider these two questionsWhat do you think is wrong with me?  What else could it possibly be? These questions remind your provider to think expansively about what could possibly be going on with you.

Having said all this, be gentle with yourself. It’s really really hard when you are sick or in pain to be articulate. Know that you are doing a heroic thing by asking for what you need directly and clearly, even though life is difficult for you right now,  and give yourself credit for that.

Yes, the system is broken – no question about it. And as broken as it is, there are good healthcare providers everywhere who want to help us as patients and we need to give them what they need so they can do their job well.

We all need to work together rather than against each other:  it’s your job to let your healthcare provider know what you need. And you can do this!

I had intended to write a series of blog posts on Survivor South Pacific, showing the analogous healthcare lessons  that would help you get your needs met with your provider.  Guess what?  I couldn’t see the analogies as clearly as I thought I would, and finding them was too much of a brain twist.   The episodes didn’t play out the way I thought they would.  This idea that things don’t play out the way I think they will  presented a valuable opportunity to find some analogies about dealing with your health:

Time Changes Everything: The long story short  is that life doesn’t happen the way you think it will (and of course I include myself in that).   Obviously, I have no control over what happens on Survivor.  Similarly, life happens and many things we don’t control.  When you’re feeling depressed, anxious or in pain, how you feel can literally change in the blink of an eye.  Angry one minute, hopeless the next, grateful it’s not worse, frustrated – I get that you may feel like you’ve wrapped yourself around the axle in an endless loop.  You may have given up on the idea that this will ever pass.  And I promise you that you are capable of feeling better and getting your life back.

Trust Yourself to Find Your Way:  Ask yourself whether it’s time to stop “trying so hard to figure it out”.  Does it makes more more sense to stop comparing your situation with others and instead get more information on a different level?  That may look like anything from getting a second opinion to praying for guidance:  you can trust yourself to figure out what you need if you’re willing to ask and listen in a patient attentive way.

Don’t Trust Others Blindly:   To really trust others takes time and discernment.

When it comes to dealing with your doctor or therapist, there are two questions to ask yourself:  

  1. Is your healthcare provider competent to help you?
  2. If your healthcare provider is competent, are they reliable?

I suggest you need to answer both questions with a hearty yes!

An incompetent provider is useless to you.  A provider who isn’t reliable but is competent is also not a match.  Nowhere is it written that doctors or therapists are inately worthy of your trust.  It’s up to you to define what competence and reliability mean to you and whether a healthcare provider has indeed earned your trust.

If you’re frustrated dealing with your healthcare provider, here’s are some thoughts to consider before you decide whether your provider is untrustworthy:

  1. Did you clearly ask for what you wanted?  (Be honest here.  Asking for help means telling your provider exactly what your symptoms are and what help would look and feel like.  Using Patient Power can help you do this)
  2. Did your doctor or therapist understand your needs? (Don’t cheat!  What did they say or do that helped you know they got the picture?)

If you haven’t been clear with your doctor or therapist, the Appointment Preparation Worksheet can help you do that in the future.  If you’re not sure that your healthcare provider has understood your needs, Patient Power will help you with that.  And, as always, feel free to contact me if I can help you communicate more clearly to get your needs met.

 

 

I’m a huge fan of Survivor and, for those of you who don’t know, they just began a new season.  There are many reasons I love this show but one of the biggest is that there are some valuable life lessons.

Because I’m so enamored with how we manage our health and communicating clearly with our providers, I see almost everything in life as in some way analogous to healthcare.

So, without further ado, here’s are the life lessons I noticed along with the analogy to your health issues:

1.  What’s the biggest obstacle for the team?  Trust!  This was the assessment that the host, Jeff Probst, made at tribal council about the losing team.  Their biggest obstacle was trusting each other.

The Healthcare Analogy:  When you’re trying to understand what’s going on with your mental or physical health, trusting the people who are helping you is your biggest obstacle.  That includes not only trusting that they have the expertise you’re looking for but also trusting that they are the right provider for you.  I suggest you read this on choosing the right healthcare provider for you to help figure out what you’re truly looking for in terms of support.

2.  Find people who are loyal with you and stick with them:  This is Coach’s approach to the game so he says.  His game is built on loyalty and integrity, though he doesn’t define those terms clearly.

The Healthcare Analogy:  Finding healthcare provider’s can be tricky.  If you’ve been struggling with your health for a while and have had an ongoing relationship with your healthcare provider, even if it’s been less than perfect, you may feel loyal because you share so much history together.  On the other hand, it’s important to always look out for what’s in your best interest (since your healthcare provider works for you) and explore what’s going on when things feel unsettled

3.  Don’t shoot  yourself in the foot:  Brandon wants to get rid of a very strong player, Mikayla, because she represents a threat to him.  It seems he feels attracted to her, equates her with Pavrati who was a villain on a previous series and can’t get past it.  It would not be in the best interest of the team to get rid of a strong player at this point in the game as it would affect their ability to win challenges.

The Healthcare Analogy:  If you have a healthcare provider who is a good fit but something feels unsettling, I suggest you do your best to talk with your provider about what’s not working to see if you can address the issue together.  For example, if your doctor does a great job of diagnosing your problem and offering good options that work for you but you’re having trouble getting prescription refills, ask whether she’d be willing to put a refill on the original prescription rather than having to get a new one.  If you find that things are really not working out and that you need a new provider, I invite you to create your own Patient Power Manifesto and then interview professionals to see if they are able to offer what you’re looking for.

If you follow Survivor, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.   What life lessons did you see demonstrated in the show?  Do you see any analogies to how you handle your health and what you saw?

Tune in next week for life lessons and healthcare analogies from  episode 3 of season 23 Survivor South Pacific!!

 

 

 

One of my quirks is seeing most of life’s experiences as somehow analogous to healthcare.  In keeping with my usual way of looking at things, here’s a story that draws out the similarities between car repairs and healthcare.

 

My son’s VW jetta was having issues.    He talked to me about it and said he was going to take it to the dealership.  Because I haven’t had such great experiences with dealerships, I shared my apprehension with him.

Going to the dealership reminds me of going to the ER when you’re sick.  Not my first choice unless it’s absolutely necessary. 

He decided to take it to his local mechanic who didn’t have the right diagnostic equipment for his VW.

I had the idea to check out Yelp to see if I could find him another mechanic.  After asking his permission, I went on yelp and called a couple mechanics that had excellent reviews.  I asked them if they had VW diagnostic equipment and they did.  Yeah!

Digressing again, I was terrified of looking on yelp for a mechanic.  What if I found someone who was incompetent or a crook?

In my mind, looking on yelp for a mechanic was akin to looking on yelp for a healthcare provider.  We both knew that his car was having a serious problem.  This car has been part of his life for 10 years and has 98,000 miles on it.

Somehow, my brain had aligned looking for a healthcare provider on yelp with looking for a mechanic.   It was like I was recommending a doctor for someone with an important and potentially serious health issue.  In this case, I was recommending someone I’d never seen or met to my son, who I obviously adore.  I didn’t want to be responsible for the results if things went south.

Returning to our story. . .

My son goes to see both mechanics and they agree he needed to go to the dealer.  So, off he goes to the dealer with some trepidation because his gut told him this was going to be a serious and expensive repair.

Digressing again, my anxiety mounted as I could see there was no choice but to take the car to the dealer.  Though the car is an inanimate object, a serious issue with it brought up all my stuff around loss in general.  (Ugh – don’t even get me started there!!!)

In the meantime, my son objectively handles the situation taking the car to the dealer and gets the bad news that the transmission needs to be replaced which would cost more than the blue book value of the car.

Now what?  Well, it’s taken a few days for the news to settle.  Of course, I want to help in any way I can.  But, the truth of it is, he doesn’t want or need my help.  It’s important that I step back and let my son handle this and make the decision that is right for him.

I’m only a supporting player in his life. . . not the one in charge.

So, why am I sharing this long story?  How does this apply to healthcare and dealing with health issues?

  • We aren’t responsible for how things turn out:  Often friends or family ask us for a recommendation for a healthcare provider and when things work out, it’s a blessing.  And when things don’t work out, we can feel like we steered them wrong.  And, it’s not up to us how things work out – we just do our best.  The results are not up to us.
  • When you’re the patient, you’re in charge:  Since my son owns the car, he’s the one who makes the decisions.  I know that seems very obvious.  However, when someone we care about is having a health issue, likewise, they are in charge.  We can give them input and offer our opinions.  What I’ve found though, in working with clients as well as in personal matters, is that it is empowering for others to take charge of their lives.  They need to hear themselves think through the options much more than they need my opinion.
  • Solutions are everywhere:  There are many options for dealing with this car.  He can sell it for parts, fix it, or get a rebuilt transmission.  I’m sure there are more.  Likewise, when you’re dealing with healthcare issues, there are many providers and options available.  Usually, there are more than the first two or three options that come to mind.
  • Be informed:  My son’s decision was to continue to research his options and pay for an additional month of car insurance so he can take his time figuring out what to do.  If you’re struggling with your health, the first thing to do is download my free Appointment Preparation Worksheet.  Fill it out before your appointment.  If you need help describing what’s going on that you want help with, contact me and we’ll talk about it.  You can also check out Patient Power which will help you be sure you and your provider are clearly communicating so you can get your needs met.

Doing the best we can with whatever we’re dealing with, looking for lots of options and making informed choices based on good solid information is so important to getting the healthcare you deserve.  If you’re struggling with your physical or mental health and want objective compassionate support so you can feel better, feel free to contact me to set up a time to chat about your situation.