Speaking Up For Those Who Can’t

In my profession, I visit many people in their homes or nursing homes, all of whom are living with illness, all of whom are elderly.  Along with the specific nursing service I provide for concerns in their feet,  I spend a great deal of time advising my patients about other aspects of their illnesses. It’s part of who I am and what I do as a registered nurse.

Picture courtesy of The Guardian UK.

Sometimes, I counsel my patients to go see their doctor if I notice a change in their health status or if I have concerns.  A while back, I noticed that the symptoms of a patient’s chronic medical condition were more pronounced.  I convinced her to make an appointment with her doctor and then I wrote the doctor a note outlining my observations and concerns.

Two days later, she phoned to tell me that the doctor’s response was “well, we all know you’re deteriorating.” And that was it.  End of appointment.  At the present stage of my patient’s condition, there are medications that will ease her symptoms but none were prescribed.  I was hoping the doctor would finally give her a prescription, but he didn’t.   My patient didn’t question the doctor, but she was disappointed.

Registered nurses are bound by very strict laws of patient confidentiality.  Even though I wanted to talk to her family about the doctor’s response, I couldn’t since she didn’t give me her permission.  The only thing I could do was urge her to tell them what happened and ask them to talk to the doctor with her and on her behalf.

There are times when the people we love need our help in dealing with difficult issues such as illness.  They may not know how to discuss their concerns with the doctor or they are so overwhelmed that they don’t know what to ask.  It’s up to family members or trusted friends to step in and speak on their behalf, with the patient’s permission if they are mentally capable.

If you don’t like the answers your relative or friend is getting, there are some things you can do to help.

  • be aware of what is happening to them medically
  • do your research about the medical condition and current treatment options
  • if they are of sound mind, you need to get their permission first before you can discuss the issues with the medical team
  • offer to take them to the doctor
  • if you don’t like what you’re hearing, ask questions and don’t leave until you get answers
  • discuss the treatment options you’ve researched with the medical team
  • if your loved one does not have a Power of Attorney for Care and for Property (2 separate documents in Canada ), talk to them about naming a P of A now before they need one.  The same goes for a Living Will and Last Will and Testament.   Having these documents before you need them gives everyone peace of mind.

In my experience, what happened to my patient is not the norm.  The majority of doctors would have begun treating her symptoms by now.  But don’t you think that one story like hers is one too many?

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4 Responses to Speaking Up For Those Who Can’t

  1. SR says:

    What a good and caring nurse you are. We need more like you. God Bless, SR

  2. Nursing and mothering aren’t all that far apart, are they? You must be great at both!

  3. Thanks, Rebecca, I agree. Nursing and mothering are very closely related. It’s a gift and a privilege to be both.

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