Teachable Moments: Consider the Spouse

5 years ago

I recently read a very thoughtful blog postsuggesting that when a spouse accompanies his/her partner to the hospital for a day - be it diagnostic testing or ongoing treatments, there is a lot of uncertainty that makes this time stressful. The author is a well-educated healthcare marketer, but in writing about this experience she is a spouse first.


Uncertainty Reduced

“Wouldn’t it be great,” the author Julie Robinson suggests, “if the spouse/partner/family member were given an agenda with what to expect?”


Earlier this year I wrote about research suggesting that the stress of having a spouse with cancer (you could substitute any serious symptoms or diseases here), makes the spouse more susceptible to heart disease.


There it is again, uncertainty.


Teachable Moments

During those times when there is so much uncertainty around a family member's health, there is also great opportunity.  Such times are often referred to as “teachable moments”;  they are windows that offer an opportunity to change our thinking and change our lives.  I would suggest that the long hours of waiting for our spouse/family member to come out of a procedure provide the perfect time for us to be engaged with as many resources as possible, such as information to read and lifestyle/disease management coaching.


Waiting rooms are notorious, vacuous places which offer little to no relevant literature or counseling, which if available, could go a long way toward improving outcomes long after the patient leaves the hospital, outpatient or inpatient.


I’ve long thought that if health care providers could harness these teachable moments into productive time for the whole family, then there is a better chance for life-long gains in better health, not just episodic improvement.


Satisfy the spouse/Satisfy the patient

Part of the new health care reform deals with patient satisfaction.  Just imagine the impact of a patient education system for the whole family, not just the patient. Knowledge would reduce uncertainty and anxiety.  It's been my experience that the patient does not retain instructions or remember much of the experience, but the family member sure does.  Patient satisfaction scores would rise because the main caregiver would be getting answers.  With answers comes knowledge and confidence.  That translates into patient satisfaction.  After all, treatment may be given in the hospital, but the long process of healing happens (or not) at home.


Think about your own experiences.  How would such a system resonate with you?  What would be most important to you as a family member to know?    Have you already had such an experience?   Please share your experience below and be sure to include the name of the hospital.  Kudos should be shared.


Remember, if I can do it, you can, too!

Susan Levy
Publisher, Well-Fed Heart

This week's featured recipe:

Roasted Cauliflower and Carrots in Mustard Sauce


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