I’m having a free teleclass on How to Get Your Needs Met with Your HealthCare Provider.

I’ll be teaching you a way to notice what’s going on with your health in a non-scary way first. Then, I’ll show you how to communicate it clearer, easier and more efficiently with your provider which enhances your ability to get the healthcare you deserve.

I’ll be making a recording (technology willing) and sending it out.

I want to assure you that you can show up anonymously and listen or participate to whatever degree you’re comfortable. My intent is to make this a safe space to explore things that may be challenging in a way that feels supportive and private for you.

Here’s the call information:

Date: Thursday, July 15th

Time: 1PM EST (10AM PST; 12 Noon CST; 11AM MST)

Phone Number: 605-477-2100

Access Code: 577345#

You’ll want to have something to write with available as well as the Appointment Preparation Worksheet which is available for free by clicking here.

Talk to you tomorrow! In the meantime think about something that’s going on with your health that you want to be sure your provider understands, or something that’s bugging you about your current relationship with your healthcare provider… or, don’t do anything and just show up!

Have you ever felt like you didn’t have the right words to explain what you were feeling to someone else? Perhaps, you get slight twinges in your knee when you least expect it (I mean, who wants to expect that anyway?)  Or, maybe, you’ve got arthritis, fibromyalgia, or depression that is pretty constant but the shades of it change in subtle ways.

Part of being human is that when we feel things unexpectedly, it takes a moment to recognize that and then to find a way to describe it.

What I’m suggesting is to give yourself a moment to just check in at those inopportune times when things are going slightly or very much awry. That, in and of itself, can be a bit of a retraining.  If you get nothing else from this post, just notice whether you’re willing to do that.

And here’s a blanket permission slip to accept the first answer that comes to you . . . whether that’s a complete willingness to notice for one second what it feels like being you or an absolute no.

Because you can’t do this wrong.

Even if you’re unwilling to notice what’s going on with those little aches, twinges, or constantly changing illnesses if you have one, that’s information.

And getting that kind of information is a first step to getting the healthcare you deserve.

Make an appointment with yourself FIRST to get the healthcare you deserve.

Whaaaaaat?  How can that possibly help anything? Whether you think it’s hopeless trying to describe what you’re going through or you think there’s no one in the world who can help you – or anything in between – I can show you how to get your healthcare needs met easier, better and faster than you could before.

And, if you’re someone who is frustrated because you know what you need and have explained it over and over again, I hear you. It is frustrating when you’ve done your best to be articulate and things still aren’t changing for you.

AND, there is a way to increase the odds that you and your provider will speak the same language so you can get your healthcare needs met.

Curious??

I’ll show you how to do this at my free teleclass “How to Get Your Needs Met By Your Healthcare Provider” on Thursday, July 15th at 1PM EST (10AM PST; 11AM CST; Noon CST).  You can sign up on the blog by sharing your email address or contact me and I’ll send you the call information.  There will also be a recording of this class (technology willing) if you can’t make it.

Hope to “see” you there!

I was talking with a friend and colleague who has chronic pain as a result of fibromyalgia.  She is taking several different medications, her symptoms change frequently and she had many concerns and questions.

She’d thought about filling out the Appointment Preparation Worksheet before her doctor’s appointment but didn’t get around to it.  She said she “kicked herself” afterwards as she froze up when the doctor came in, unable to articulate her questions and concerns.

She recently was vomiting and having incredible pain.  

She was able to pull herself together enough, before leaving for the ER, to tell her husband to take notes on the Appointment Preparation Worksheet about what was going on (in between bouts of horrendous pain and other horrible-ness).

Here’s what she said:  “When I went to the ER, I got to be the patient and didn’t have to advocate for myself.  What a relief!

That’s such a huge thing especially when you’re too sick to talk about it.

Her husband signed her in and gave the Appointment Preparation Worksheet to the receptionist who made a copy for her chart.  The doctor’s  read it as they were examining her and several staff members mentioned how appreciative they were that she had everything in one place.

As it turned out, she had a gall bladder attack and needed to have her gall bladder out.  She also explained how much my work helped her while she was in the hospital.  She found herself much more willing to ask for what she needed (rather than pretend everything was alright).

“Even the name, Patient Power, helped me realize that I don’t have to be a victim anymore.  I can ask for what I need rather than feel guilty because I need help.”

She said in the past she’s felt so much guilt for having an “invisible illness” that clearly compromises her daily life and can’t be seen by others.  “It’s not like having a broken leg where there’s a cast and everyone knows that something is wrong.”

“Invisible illnesses” are my pet peeve because finding ways to explain what’s going on with you internally is so difficult.

That’s why I was so proud of her that she ASKED her husband to fill out The Appointment Preparation Worksheet as she was describing what was happening.   “Ask and you shall receive!”

It is my mission to help people who don’t feel well find the words to express themselves clearly.  That’s why I developed the Appointment Preparation Worksheet that is available right now for you for free.  I also created Patient Power to insure that you and your provider are on the same page.

Use my materials with your healthcare provider and let me know how they work for you.

I noticed from the moment I picked up the phone that my client was unusually quiet. She’d been dealing with mental health issues as well as some back pain.   She had been with a competent therapist and psychiatrist for a while to manage her mental health.

She found my material particularly helpful because she could now talk with both her therapist and her psychiatrist more specifically about what was going on with her. The key was when she began using the Appointment Preparation Worksheet ahead of time.  She felt more focused on her issues of the moment instead of thinking through things hurriedly and forgetting important stuff because, as we all know, appointments end all too soon sometimes.

The results for her were profound:  it was easier for her psychiatrist to tweak her medications, her therapist was able to target her needs and suggest specific helpful strategies more clearly, and she was able to observe what her situation was as it was happening because she was tuned into the philosophy of  Patient Power.

When I heard the lifeless tone of her voice, I listened as she described how responsible she felt for the well being of others and how frustrated she was by her inability to just “be okay already.”  She was she was giving up, that there was no help for her and she was unwilling to keep trying so hard to “get it right.”

Please remember that I am not a medical provider.  I am passionate about helping people who don’t feel well speak the same language as their providers so that they can get their healthcare needs met.

Having said that, the first step in speaking the same language as someone else is to meet YOURSELF where you are in the moment.  No one does this perfectly – that’s not the goal.  What I want you to remember is that it’s important to do the best you can to notice your thoughts and feelings and I strongly suggest getting it out of your head and writing it down so you can see it more clearly.

It was her husband who showed her a potential blind spot when he said that he had been reading about bipolar and questioned whether she may have it.

When he said that to her, she said she wanted to throw up – just the idea felt both true and impossible at the same time.  She couldn’t face that this too could possibly be adding to her already complex situation.   That’s the dilemma she called me with.

I listened more carefully to her story and felt her pain.  I felt her husband’s concern for her as well.   I understood her fear, her disappointment, and her love for her family.

What do you think”, she asked me.

I shared how I heard her husband’s concern for her, understood her fear, her overwhelm, her pain and her love for her family. We took some time with this part here as I felt it was important she feel truly acknowledged and appreciated for sharing something so difficult and personally devastating.

After she clearly acknowledged that she didn’t feel unsafe, I made the following suggestion:

“Give your husband a 7 day dosage log and you can both prepare one separately to note the effects of your meds, your mood and also that you’re taking them as scheduled.  Both of you can also keep track using an Appointment Preparation Worksheet of your current symptoms, questions, and how things are changing. That’s the first step.

You can also make an appointment with your therapist and your psychiatrist after you observe this together for a week to ten days.  Then you can go in with clear information if you decide that it’s time to be evaluated.”

She agreed that this sounded like a good plan and would get back to me to let me know how it goes.

Here’s the important learning’s from this case study:

  • Vague information won’t get the job done: Going to your provider in situations like this with unclear vague information is NOT the way to get the healthcare you deserve.
  • Specific information helps:     Sharing short phrases about your state of mind, physical condition, etc gives your provider clear information so they can custom tailor their recommendations according to your unique needs.
  • Listen Up:  Other people’s perspective on your behavior can be very useful (not necessarily definitive though) and we’re all here to help each other.

As always, if you are in dire straits and feel so much pain that you can no longer keep yourself safe, it is IMPERATIVE that you err on the side of caution and seek help immediately.  Only you can be the judge of that.

In Part 2 of this, I’ll share the results of this case study with you and we’ll find out together what this client learned.  My prayer is that she can continue to deal with life’s daily changes in a way that works for her.

I deeply admire her willingness to explore her issues as well as her husband’s courage to share this with her.

What are you willing to notice about yourself today?  Is it possible you have a blind spot like this client did and need an outside perspective?   Or, maybe you’re the person who’s noticing something about someone you love and want to consider talking with them about this?  I welcome your thoughts, comments and insights.

A potential client contacted me last week with questions about Patient Power.  I could hear how difficult it was for her to talk and guessed that she really needed someone to hear her story.  I simply asked her how I might be able to be of service.  With that, she began to cry.

She spoke of some long standing feelings of not wanting to live anymore, that she felt squeezed in every direction by relationships that were demanding and no longer fulfilling, financial constraints, a budding business that seemed like a great idea and also bore no financial fruits, and how for years and years she had tried to re-kindle her zest for life amidst chronic pain that had no diagnosis.

My armchair diagnosis, remembering I am not a doctor, was that she was both depressed and anxious.   I kept those labels of depression and anxiety to myself.   Instead, I continued to let her expound on her story because I could see it had been a long time since she felt truly listened to.  It was an honor that she chose to call me.  She said she’d read my blogs and felt like I may be someone who could understand what it was like to be her.

Digressing a moment for my personal views on depression. . . ..

Depression, and its cousin anxiety are illnesses  that no one likes to acknowledge. They don’t have a clear start and end date:  it’s not like a broken leg when your leg gets out of the cast and then, though you may hobble, you can walk more normally.  They often sneak in through the back door – we don’t know what or why or who tipped the scales. 

Yet, for those of us who are prone to it, we somehow find ourselves in the company of these smug companions who slowly stealthily steal the life out of us. It’s often not a one time event but like an Achilles heel it is something we are susceptible to over and over again.

It’s usually not a dramatic downward shift.  It’s the little things that often feel like they take more effort to accomplish.  It’s that existential question of “how did my life end up like this” or “why can’t I get over this already”?  Its questions that have no answers, and answer that don’t make sense to us anymore.

What motivated us at one time no longer does – the relationships we once held dear are all up for grabs though we may in fact still feel very responsible to uphold our end of the bargain.  We may find ourselves more tired, going from one thing to another feeling rather unfocused, or in general feeling like our get up and go got up and went.

When a physical illness occurs, there is often a grace period given by society, friends and family where you get a chance to adjust to it.

Depression and anxiety don’t have a grace period when it comes to other people – they have a finite shelf life.   The rule is get over it, do the things that help, exercise, find a routine for yourself that works, and keep yourself busy so you can’t think too much.  Don’t forget to get your hair done, pick up the kids, keep up with the laundry, and hold it together at work.

And for God’s sake, help yourself because other’s need you to be available for them.    Society has a lot of rules for pretending that something isn’t happening.

Back to my potential client now:  Her true gift was in her willingness to acknowledge what was happening to her. What we acknowledge, we can begin to take the first steps to deal with.

I didn’t have a simple solution for this potential client either.

What I did share with her is that communicating clearly helps.  I assured her that by buying Patient Power (which she chose to do) she would not have a magic answer to how to pick her life up off the floor and create a life that felt meaningful and fulfilling again.  She wouldn’t find solutions to her issues in Patient Power.

The beauty of the Patient Power is it is a resource guide to help you ask the questions of yourself and your dedicated healthcare provider to find the answers that are most appropriate for your needs.

Used over time, it is likely to help you make the informed healthcare choices that are so integral to your psychological well being.

I look at Patient Power as a book of mindful questions to help you gently and consciously look at what’s happening in your life, express it clearly and hopefully find an experienced healthcare provider who realizes they are privileged to have an opportunity to help you when it’s so hard to help yourself.

If my work helps one person bridge that gap between talking about their needs and hearing what their provider’s recommendations clearly – that would exceed my wildest dreams of success.  The next step, of course, is seeing whether what that provider is suggesting is truly a match for you.

We are a society of individuals.  At one time or another, each of us will find ourselves grappling with issues that feel insurmountable.  We’ll feel helpless and alone – even when we don’t want to admit it.  We won’t know where to turn despite how we may pretend otherwise.

Patient Power is designed to help you take your power back with the help of someone who knows more than you do in the area that you’re struggling.

My prayer is that life blesses all my readers with good health – both mentally and physically.

And, in those human moments that we all face when life seems hard to handle, my hope is that you consider Patient Power as a first step to getting reliable help from someone trustworthy to enjoy your life in ways that feel truly meaningful and hopeful.

I’m all for making informed choices about your healthcare.    What that really means to me is to get the facts straight first about what’s going on with you.

This can be particularly grueling when we’re so busy we haven’t been paying attention to what our symptoms are.

It’s can also feel inconvenient and time consuming to have one more “to do” for yourself with no clear way to keep track of things.

For those of you who are using medications, supplements or getting some form of treatment for what ails you, it is really helpful to keep track of how that is affecting you.  You need an easy to use format to help you do this.

I developed Patient Power:  Get the HealthCare You Deserve because I passionately believe that when we make informed choices about our healthcare, our lives get better.  This gives you the tools to make those choices using four easy to follow worksheets that you custom tailor to your particular health circumstances.

One of the worksheets in Patient Power is the 7 Day Dosage Log.  Knowing that may sound like a scary term, I want to unpack it for you so that you can see how useful it is.

It is for those of you who are already using any form of treatment.  That includes anything from ibuprofen to prescriptions, from vitamins to massage therapy.  And everything in between.

In other words, if you’ve already recognized that your body is giving you feedback that something isn’t working right and you’re dealing with it pro-actively, this worksheet will help you keep track of its effects.

Here are 5 reasons it can help you make informed decisions about your healthcare:

1.  You Understand Your Instructions Correctly:   When you write down the dosage, instructions, etc for your medications/supplements, you are clear how you’re to use them OR you can find out where you’re unclear and ask questions.

2.  You Remember What You’ve Taken:  Reminds you that you’ve taken them – if you tend to forget (I know I do!).

3. Other People Know What You’re Taking: If you want to keep other people in the loop about what you’re taking or what types of therapies you are using, they can find it easily on because you’re keeping track of it.  It eliminates misunderstandings about your treatment choices.

4.  Helps You and Others Notice the Effect of What You’re Taking:  The act of writing things down helps you notice what’s going on with you more clearly.  Why?  Because you now have a place to write down what you’re taking and how it’s working for you.

5.  Helps You Fill Out Your Appointment Preparation Worksheet and Give Important Information To Your HealthCare Provider:  Armed with this handy tool you can now notice what the effects of your current treatment, therapy, etc are AND communicate them clearly to your healthcare provider.  You are now giving your healthcare provider what they need to custom tailor their recommendations to your specific situation.  The result is you have a greater opportunity to make informed choices about your healthcare.

I invite you to check out Patient Power:  Get the HealthCare You Deserve as a tool to help you make the choices that are right for you.  If you already have it, how’s it working for you?

This is one of  those posts that may leave some of you saying . . . . duh, I know THAT!

It’s the simplest thing to do and the easiest thing to overlook.  Chances are good that if you’re seeing your healthcare provider, you are there because you have some specific things to discuss about your health.  Maybe you’ve filled out the Appointment Preparation Worksheet(which you can download for free) ahead of time.

Great job for preparing so that you don’t forget what’s going on with you.  High Five!!!!!

So, the next step is . . . . how are you going to remember what they’re telling you?  I often think to myself, “That is so basic – I won’t forget to do THAT. ”

AND, I’m getting old enough to know that what I think I’ll never forget is the thing that I usually don’t remember (read that sentence again and see if it’s true for you too!).

My kids laugh at me because I’m constantly messing up their names.  And don’t even get me started on my 6 animals and calling them by every name but their own.

I no longer take pride in my memory – I take pride in the fact that I compensate well for being forgetful.

There’s a book called Write It Down, Make It Happen and it talks about how things don’t get accomplished well without writing them down first.   I believe that holds true with getting your healthcare needs met too.

Here’s the secret to remembering what your healthcare provider tells you:

  • Write it Down: I developed an Appointment Summary Sheet as part of Patient Power to help you remember what your healthcare provider is recommending
  • Make It Happen: Follow the simple directions in Patient Power for making sure you and your provider are on the same page and share your Appointment Summary Sheet with them to make sure you understand their recommendations.

What would be helpful for you to remember to tell your healthcare provider?  How can you help yourself remember what they tell you?

I’m a huge animal lover and refer to myself lovingly as the Young Woman in A Shoe with so many animals she DOES know what to do!  I pride myself on making informed healthcare choices for my animals too!

What do I do?  All the normal things- walk them, feed them, and most of all love them.  Part of loving them is making sure that they get the healthcare that they deserve!

Rabies, heartworm, and miscellaneous bumps and bruises are all part of the responsibilities here along with some unexpected procedures from time to time.

Here’s what generally happens when I go to the vet with a problem:

  • Service with a Smile: I am greeted by someone who loves their job and knows me and my animals by name, with treats available.
  • Timely Attention: My appointments run on time or someone tells me that there will be a delay, giving me an option to wait or come back later.
  • Double Checking: The assistant confirms the reason for my visit and asks (at this time of year) whether I want a heartworm check for my dogs since it’s the season for it in Michigan.
  • Preventative Medicine Is Recommended: This is a very pro-active way to deal with healthcare and is encouraged when it comes to treating my animals.  Educating me about why this is an issue is really important so that I can make an informed decision.
  • The Doctor is IN: The doctor comes in and addresses my questions fully.
  • Dealing With Unexpected Procedures Thoroughly: If it turns out a procedure is recommended, the vet explains it to me fully to make sure I understand it.  I then make a decision and schedule it if I decide it’s necessary.
  • Clear Detailed Procedure Protocol: I get clear instructions regarding what I need to do before a procedure including deciding on blood work ahead of time, special diets to follow, etc.  These instructions are in writing and given to me at the time I schedule the procedure  ( which is before I leave the office in most instances.  I am also encouraged to call if I have any questions before the procedure
  • Professional After Procedure Protocol: When I pick up my animal following the procedure, I discuss with the vet what they found and walk away with written instructions for how to care for them.   The following day, I receive a call to see how things are going and whether I have any other questions or concerns.  If it’s a serious procedure, I often have to return to the office and there may be additional follow up calls by phone.

Now, picture your last visit to your healthcare provider.  Imagine being sick and having an unexpected procedure or test suggested to you.

Are you getting the same care that my animals get when you see your healthcare provider?

This is a rather provocative subject as frustration – of any sort – is really annoying, stressful, and confusing. It can also be embarrassing, creating depression and anxiety in its wake.  It can often make us (me too!) feel powerless, isolated and out of control. If you’re feeling frustrated just by reading this, I want you to know I really understand that and am in your corner.

(In fact, if this article is making you anxious just by reading it, I encourage you to skip to the bottom and answer this question:    What is your greatest frustration with your healthcare provider?  Know that you’ve helped me so that I can help you.)

When it comes to our health, that frustration is often multiplied by physical pain, emotional suffering, and lots of complications as a result of it all.

I want healthcare providers and people who deal with them to communicate clearly and get the job done together.

My passion is to create a bridge between healthcare providers and people who are struggling with some kind of health situation (whatever its nature) so that everyone gets their needs met.

There is no room for blaming our healthcare providers or ourselves (though it is a natural human tendency to do so) when we feel frustrated.  It’s a problem to be solved.

Steve Chandler has taught me how to turn problems into challenges, projects or something to work on.  It’s a subtle difference – but for me it’s been life-changing.  His approach has taught me how to look at unmet needs particularly in the field of healthcare, redefine those frustrations as something to work on and find ways to help others feel less overwhelmed, agitated and worried.

When we take our frustration and look at them as something to work on, they become more manageable.   That’s my job – not yours – and I need your help to do my job well.

As part of my job, I have created Patient Power and the Appointment Preparation Worksheet so that you can communicate more clearly with your HealthCare Provider.

I also realize there’s so much more that I can do to truly be of service which brings me to today’s question:  What is your greatest frustration with your healthcare provider?

Whether you’re dealing with something fairly often or it’s just the occasional visit and regardless of your situation, I would love your answer to this question.  I want to be sure your frustrations are addressed in my work and I welcome your posts here.

If you are more comfortable, please feel free  to contact me.   I welcome a confidential conversation with you via phone or email about this very tender subject.

It’s so common to notice what’s not working in our lives.  Whether it’s the news, the weather, or our lives in general – there’s usually something that isn’t exactly as we’d like it (me too!). One of the many reasons for this is the way we’re wired and our survival instinct. In the days of the cave man, we had to constantly be on guard for getting our basic needs met – food, water, shelter and survival.

Nowadays, those needs are often threatened in catastrophic situations or if we’re impoverished.  I don’t want to minimize those circumstances or that they exist.  In fact, I want to acknowledge that those are very difficult situations which millions of people bravely endure and send them my compassion and prayers.

So, why would I talk about survival and noticing what’s not working when this article is about 5 signs you and your provider are in sync? Good question huh!

Here’s the reason:  finding what works isn’t something we’re wired to do.  Why?  Because (in part anyway – there’s a zillion reasons for this) we’re physically and psychologically wired to figure out what isn’t working and fix it.

Having said that, let’s now shift our focus to finding the good. This is something I’ve learned from Jen Louden who continues to inspire me with how she’s helped me really notice all the things (and there’s a million of them too!) that truly are working in my life.  As I notice what’s working in my life, it seems (like the vine outside my window as I write this) to just grow – in infinite and surprising ways.

Here are the 5 key ingredients to a good working relationship between you and your provider.  There needs to be enough time and interest on the part of both of you for all of these elements to occur to be sure you’re in sync:

  1. Be Prepared:   Come to your appointment on time, preparing ahead of time and knowledgeable about what’s bothering you.  Use Patient Power to help you prepare including the Appointment Preparation Form and the 7 day Dosage Log if you’re taking medication or supplements.  That way you’ll know exactly what you want to discuss, be on top of your symptoms and won’t forget anything.
  2. Stop Talking:  Give your provider time to digest the information you give them.  Stop talking so they can concentrate on the information you’ve given them. Give them a chance to take some notes, do an exam, look something up or whatever else they need to do after you’ve shared your input.
  3. Honor the Balance Between You:  When I was little I used spend a lot of time at the playground across the street from my house on this seesaw. I loved it when my friend and I could both have our feet off the ground and be in balance.  That’s key here – you give information, they take it in and advise you. It’s a dynamic rather than a static process of give and take, reflecting back what you’re each hearing.
  4. Summarize:  Use Patient Power to be sure you’ve gotten the story straight.  That’s your job, not theirs.  Repeat what you’ve understood from them in terms of what’s going on as well as their further instructions.  This is a pivotal point and often where things get lost.  I developed an Appointment Summary Sheet as part of Patient Power to help you make sure you correctly understood their recommendations.
  5. Assess:  This is also up to you.  Figure out if what they’re suggesting is a match for what’s most important to you. You may be able to do this on the spot or you may need to take some time with what’s been suggested to research, talk to others and/or ask your part if what they’ve recommended is something you’re willing to do.  It’s really important not to ask them this obvious question:  “If it were your husband, what would you do?”  Why?  Because you’re presumably not their spouse and it’s up to you to make the choices that are right for you – not your provider.

Other helpful ingredients are caring staff members, a mutual sense of humor about life in general (and my situation in particular), wise insights from the staff or provider’s about why things are the way they are from me,  and having all my pertinent information available.  These things don’t necessarily make or break the relationship and they really increase my comfort level with getting my healthcare needs met.  After all, if I didn’t need help, I wouldn’t be there in the first place.

If any one of the key ingredients is missing, there’s a good chance your relationship isn’t really working. For me personally, when one of those ingredients in missing – my relationship with my provider isn’t optimal. That doesn’t mean it can never work; it simply means something needs tweaking.   There are many ways to improve your relationship with your provider – sometimes it just takes time.  And other times, there’s something that they’ve said or done that may be a deal breaker for you.  We’ll talk about deal breakers in another post.

Here’s the question for you:  How do you know that your relationship with your provider is working? I’d love to hear examples from your life of a working relationship and also am very interested if your criteria are different from mine.  People vary and other ideas of working relationships are always welcome here.