In today’s competitive health care industry, many times the immediate focus is the bottom line instead of the top priority – the patient or resident.
Health care needs to do just that: Truly care for the people being treated. Maya Angelou wrote, “They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Although she was describing life in general, how much more important is that thought for health care professionals who are treating those facing health challenges or the elderly?
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
People are often told, “It’s just a simple test” or “The disease is manageable,” with no further explanation. According to Dr. Dany Nehru, medical director of Fellowship Community, “Communication is the key when caring for patients. When patients and their families have a clear understanding of what to expect, there is a sense of relief. It’s important to review their care plans and include patients in the decision-making process.”
“Patients who have a better understanding of their health care tend to take better care of themselves, which results in a higher quality of life,” Nehru added.
It is important for professionals to maintain eye contact and focus on the person with whom they are meeting. Listening to patient concerns and symptoms and answering their questions will not only show empathy, it may also assist with diagnosis and treatment.
Taking the time to explain a diagnosis or options for treatment emphasizes that the patient is valued as a person.
THE POWER OF TOUCH
Touch is a powerful tool to make people feel more comfortable and relaxed.
When comfortable, people’s blood pressure and anxiety levels often decrease. There has been significant research on the power of touch at any age. Infants who are touched are more likely to thrive, while children who receive little attention or touch may develop difficulties in forming bonds and developing empathy for others. As adults, when a loved one passes, it is a simple touch that is most often missed.
A simple squeeze of a hand or arm on the shoulder is an appropriate gesture that reinforces care. The person is being seen as a human being and not as the disease they are battling or the number on their chart. Many are stressed just by the circumstances surrounding a visit to a doctor’s office or health care facility. Pre-conceived notions of how they will be treated cause anxiety. A simple, appropriate touch will help to put them at ease.
“Developments in technology have greatly advanced health care,” said Donna Conley, COO of Fellowship Community. “But we must not lose sight of the human factor. Patients want to know that you care about them, taking time to offer a listening ear or a gentle caring touch sends that message.”
Communicating and the power of touch become more impactful when they are combined with genuine compassion for people. Nothing replaces care that comes from the heart. The golden rule of treating others like you would like to be treated yourself is nothing new, yet the sentiment runs true.
Showing compassion involves recognizing and “feeling the pain” of the patient, then acting on those feelings by helping them. Keeping compassion alive requires motivation, as most health care professionals and caregivers treat or assist many patients a day. The results of compassion are profound.
“Caregivers who are compassionate encourage patients to get better more quickly,” says Audrey Fernald, director of infection prevention and staff education at Fellowship Community. “Patients experience less anxiety and with this, less pain.”
Many health care professionals and facilities have kept the care in health care. Continue to keep the lines of communication open, offer a gentle caring touch and serve patients with compassion. Advanced technology will never replace true care.
Kelly Gould is vice president of marketing with Fellowship Community, a continuing care retirement community in Whitehall. Before joining Fellowship, she owned an advertising, marketing and public relations firm for 18 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org