For some of us, doing the dishes is the last thing on our list.  For others, it’s the first because a neat orderly kitchen creates less clutter in our heads.  There are also those of us who wish others would do the dishes for us or that the dishes would just disappear.

I invite you to pause for a moment and ask yourself – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when it comes to doing the dishes?  And what the heck does doing the dishes have to do with feeling better?

If you think of doing the dishes as taking care of your health, it can often feel like an enormous pain.  Though some may call being in pain an adventure in learning, there are many times where the truth is it just hurts.   We (and that includes me) don’t want to deal with it, we don’t have time, and we surely don’t want to talk about it or ask for help.

For me, dealing with my health is a bit of an adventure in learning mixed in with varying amounts of fear and pain.

I can take care of  maintaining my health – just like the dishes – myself.

I can do things that help like exercise, yoga, eating nutritiously, and meditating on my own.   When I take care of my health on a regular basis, I feel better.

It’s the same with the dishes.  When I do them on a regular basis, I also feel better.

Unlike the dishes, however,  at some point  I cannot take care of my own health alone.  For example, when I notice I’m dizzy while driving I need someone’s help.

And when I ask for that help clearly, listen carefully and make sure I understand the options, I get good advice and can make decisions.  I also know that over time, by giving accurate clear feedback to my provider, we can tweak decisions as we go along.   I repeat this process again and again – taking the first step over and over by admitting I need help.

Here’s how this played out in my own life.  When I told my doctor that I felt dizzy sometimes and noticed it had to do with turning my head while driving and making right turns sometimes as well as telling her that it would come on suddenly and the road started moving, she suggested several options for treatment.  It took a while to figure out but the end result was I got a diagnosis and treatment for it.  When it happens, I now know what to do.

When I accept my role as a patient by clearly saying what hurts and what I need help with, I open the door to receiving that help.   When I have chosen the right provider, they can more easily use their professional expertise to help me.  I believe that when we work together for my well being everyone benefits

If you’re like me, most likely there’s some health issue going on for you (just like there’s probably some dishes waiting!).  I invite you to  see whether you can see the connection between doing the dishes, feeling better, and working with your healthcare provider in a mindful articulate way.

Does something I say resonate with you?  If so, please share it with us by making a comment.

Also, if something is going on with you that you’d rather discuss privately – please feel free to contact me and we’ll schedule a time to chat about it for 15 minutes to see if I can help you.

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:

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!!

 

 

 

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.  Use the twitter version to explain your story:  During Tribal Council (where a player is eliminated) one of the characters, Cochran, explained how he may be perceived as a nerd, but despite his translucent skin, sweater vest, and blah blah blah he is an asset to the tribe.  You could see on the faces of his tribe that his explaining wasn’t helping to keep him on the tribe.

The healthcare analogyUse the free Appointment Preparation Worksheet from my website to explain what’s going on with you when you go to see your healthcare provider.  By thinking through your situation ahead of time, you’ll be able to focus on what you most want to get resolved.

2.  Don’t try and hide your tattoo:  One of the characters. Brandon. is the nephew of Russell, a previous cast member on Survivor who was notorious for being a villain.  His last name, Hanz, is literally tattooed on his back and on his upper arm.  His strategy is to make an excuse for never taking off his shirt despite the fact that they are in the South Pacific where it’s hot, and the tasks are grueling.

The healthcare analogy:  Be honest with your healthcare provider about what’s going on with you.   For example, if you’re going to see your psychiatrist and you’ve been really struggling with depression, you may also feel a “tattoo of shame”.  You so wish it wasn’t true; you don’t want to associate yourself with it.  It’s been my experience that the more honest we are with our healthcare provider’s about what we’re truly struggling with (rather than hiding that “”tattoo of shame), while also being succinct, the more likely it is that they can address our needs appropriately.

3.  Ask for help and work as a team:  The first challenge was between Ozzy and Coach, who are well known cast-members who were brought back to join the show this season.  This began as an individual dual and Ozzy quickly turned it into a team dual when he had to put a puzzle together and couldn’t see the big picture.  He did this by saying:  “Help me out guys!”

The healthcare analogy:  When you have chronic pain or a mental health issue, it’s absolutely vital that you ask for help and work as a team with your healthcare provider as well as close family and friends who want to be supportive.  Other people who are on the outside looking in can often see the big picture and offer you a perspective on things when you’re too close to see it yourself.

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 2 of season 23 Survivor South Pacific!!