Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Creaky Joints and Dr. Laurie Ferguson

I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Laurie Ferguson, who writes the Ethereal Cereal column for Creaky Joints, the best site out there for all things arthritis related. I had contacted Dr. Ferguson after reading her post on advocacy and receiving her kind permission to re-print her post here. If you read my blog with any regularity you know I am a big proponent of self advocacy and have written on the topic frequently. So, without further ado, I submit for your approval Dr. Laurie's Healthcare Battle Plan:

Dr. Laurie's Healthcare Battle Plan

by Dr. Laurie Ferguson — last modified Feb 23, 2009 08:27 PM

Shuttling between several doctors? Dr. Laurie explains exactly how to protect yourself.

A client of mine isn't doing so well. I'm watching her cope with a new round of doctor visits, tests, questions ... and fears. She is on the merry-go-round of one visit leading to three new appointments with different physicians -- each one working to diagnose and treat her many symptoms.

There is something different in her approach though, and it is making me think.

She seems to be doing most of the work.

The landscape of medicine has changed with lightspeed ... and many of us are still catching up. We only have minutes with our physician. We are given options -- not decisions. And there is an often unspoken expectation that we are the ones in charge.

She is taking each opinion, each "recommendation," and she and her partner are sifting through the data, doing some research, and choosing what seems best to pursue as a healing option.

In the not-so-distant past, she -- and many of my other patients -- would have relied on a doctor to choose a path.

He (and The Doctor was almost always a He) made the decisions, and was The Omniscient Healer. We looked up to our doctors. We relied on their experience and wisdom -- and hopefully on their caring concern.

The landscape of medicine has changed with lightspeed ... and many of us are still catching up. We only have minutes with our physician. We are given options -- not decisions. And there is an often unspoken expectation that we are the ones in charge.

That's the good news -- and the difficult news, isn't it? We have to adjust to this new way of doing things at a time when we feel most in need of someone to lean on, someone who will take care of us and make it all better. But we also know that this is unrealistic -- a fairy tale that never quite fits the situation.

Our work is to help ourselves grow up a little into this responsibility and develop some ways to adjust and use our new power most effectively for our own healing.

I'm watching my clients and here is what I've learned:

The good news is, if we're in charge, we get to decide.

OK. The doc may recommend certain surgeries, or a certain course of medication. But once we do some research -- and ask around -- then we choose. You and your body are the best judge of what works for you. You're in charge -- and you know what works best for you.

  • Speak up.
  • Speak out.
  • Tell the truth.
  • And be The Boss.

It's empowering and it is what will make you feel better.

Get an advocate.

Don't try to keep track of everything or make decisions by yourself. Again, this is good news -- partners make us stronger. They help us feel better.

If it isn't a family member, take a friend. If you don't think you have a friend that close, then get to work to make sure there are some people in your life you can count on. This is a two-way street and it is part of healing.

Write everything down.

Get copies of tests, records, whatever. Doctors will make mistakes. You need your own written stuff.

Keep track.

Nobody else is. This means a written list of every medication and herbal thing you are doing. Make sure every doctor, every assistant, and every pharmacist sees it. Every time. Don't assume they "know" -- even if they have seen your list, they have often forgotten.

Have second opinions. Use alternative modalities. Use research.

The internet is wonderful ... and awful. Go to reputable sites, and double-check what you learn. Reach out to other patients, nurses, and support groups. Be informed. Then practice making decisions.

This is a new way of being for most of us. It steers us in the direction of responsibility -- instead of feeling passive or victimized.

Once you begin to practice this, it's heady, intoxicating, and, yes, sometimes a little scary. But being a grown-up is always more scary ... and more fun -- because you get to set the course. You get to decide how late to stay up, what to have in the fridge, and how to spend your money.

Should your health care be in any one else's control?

It's your body. Your side effects. Your pain. Your healing. Your life.

I'm rooting for you.

To send Dr. Laurie your thoughts:


Dottie said...

Thanks Maureen for getting Dr. Laurie's permission to reprint her article. There are some wise words there for us all to read and absorb.

One Mom said...

Dr. Laurie makes some good and valid points and perhaps "younger" patients are more comfortable challenging their care But I'm still old school...the doctor knows best! After all, he/she has the training! And when I consult the internet...whoa, that's one scary place to self diagnose and treat!

I am the advocate for my stroke survivor husband but he cannot do that for me in return. My friends who would be willing and able to do this for me are in other states and my grown children are not ready for this responsibility yet!

Tiglizzyclone said...

That is a really interesting article by Dr. Laurie! I sometimes feel I am getting no help with my constant headaches!

ConnieFoggles said...

What important information for all of us to learn. What about those who don't have an advocate though? I have a husband and he is a wonderful advocate, but I know there are many of us out there that don't have someone close to them to fill that role.

Kerry said...

Thanks Maureen for the introduction to Dr. Laurie. I read her most recent blog post about communication and it has already given me help as to how to communicate about my illness. Our son is getting married soon and we will be having lots of people around. I am going to use her tools--particularly asking ourselves why we want to communicate about our illness first--in my case to prevent people from thinking it's them and feeling badly when I have to go rest or suddenly need to sit down or have a reaction if one of them is wearing perfume.

Thanks Maureen.