How many times have you wondered what else might be affecting a person’s health? They seem to be doing all the right things but they don’t improve.
There’s Phyllis, the nurse whose blood pressure doesn’t respond to medication, James the farmer with recurrent ear infections, or Charlie the mechanic whose knee operation only lasted a few months. They attend appointments and appear really committed to getting better but it just doesn’t happen for them. They deserve more. As caregivers, we can take four important steps to identify new ways to help people achieve their health goals:
1. Acknowledge other determinants of health
Acknowledgment that the illness or the injury are not stand-alone issues, and exploring other aspects of the person, can impact their outcomes significantly. Reducing the amount of time off work or addressing complicated co-morbidities that are the source of ongoing health issues beyond the initial claim or problem, can make a difference to a person’s life.
2. Take into account other health problems
Taking into account other or previous health problems, sleep and diet, stress, restricted movement, spiritual and family issues, to name a few, really can be an integral part of recovery. It’s also a good chance to increase health awareness. Crisis equals danger but also an opportunity and is an ideal time for patient education on lifestyle changes and support for self-care to promote a personal understanding of what ‘whole person wellness’ looks like.
3. Help people identify their “why”
Patients who have a goal to lose 10 pounds may struggle to meet that goal. It’s arbitrary. It’s just a number. They need to find a more powerful motivator that’s meaningful to them personally, that keeps them moving forward on their health journey. This could be as simple as “I want to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle” or “I want to be able to play soccer again.”
4. Enable self-management
This approach won’t be news to any of you but finding the time and exploring the ‘right' areas might seem out of your current scope and time allocation. However, understanding the ‘why’ doesn’t have to sit with you and neither does it have to take up your clinical minutes.
Igniting the patient's curiosity to understand and work on themselves is the crux of self-management. Not only does it make the person feel in charge of their own health and increase skills around empowerment and intuition, it acknowledges the interconnectedness of the body and the mind - that is also physical and emotional health.
A practical example
Take Phyllis the nurse. She invested the time to notice how many situations didn’t end well for her or give her the space to focus on herself. This prompted her to try a few assertiveness exercises and start feeling more comfortable with having personal boundaries, that didn’t always suit others.
She really didn’t think emotional wellness was an issue for her and she didn’t feel stressed like others, but freeing up time meant that she could start doing some mindfulness exercises - something her physician had encouraged for a long time. Guess what? Her blood pressure started to drop!
Phyllis’s story shows a direct result and was a great win for her and the team.
Whole person care has powerful implications
Amazingly, this integrated approach can be a great motivator for many more reasons. The person feels understood due to the acknowledgment of the other struggles in their life. They start to work through some of their other pressing issues, that relieve stressors and they have a broader list of areas in which to notice successes. Perhaps they have better skin, brighter eyes, more regular sleep patterns, better relationships.
These may seem of low clinical significance but they encourage engagement with one’s own health and are part of their journey to health and wellness making larger outcomes more likely. Melon’s participants have said things like...
“The program has helped greatly with controlling urges and sticking to the new habits to keep me healthy.”
“I'm still on track feeling so much better I have a lot more energy. I have joined a healthy lifestyle group which is fun.”
It’s one thing to know the link between emotional and physical health, but it is quite another to enable your people to know it too.
Whole person health can help this understanding and support you to navigate this complex path to recovery and self-management.
Are you ready to help your patients self-manage their care? Download our 5 steps to scalable self-management here.