Thursday, June 7, 2012

Top 5 Ways to Maximize Your Doctors' Visits

It's not uncommon. You finally had an appointment to see your doctor about an issue that has been bothering you - and you realize five minutes after you left that you forgot to ask him or her an important question. Or, you leave the doctor's office, prescription in hand, but you don't remember or couldn't understand what you were told. These are just two scenarios that play out on a regular basis when it comes to doctors and patients.

If you're lucky, your doctor will take follow-up phone calls, but most don't. So, other than making another appointment or consulting Dr. Google, you don't have many options. Because of this, it is important to be sure that you are prepared for your doctor's visit before it happens. Preparation won't mean that your visit is perfect, but you definitely increase your chances of being satisfied with your doctors' visits.

So - how do you prepare for your visit? Here are my top five tips for making a doctor's visit easier and more efficient.
1- If the receptionist asks what the problem is, don't skirt the issue.

While you might not feel comfortable going into detail (and you don't have to), the more specific you are about your problem, the better the chance that you'll be given an appropriate length of time with the doctor. Of course, we often feel as if the time we have is never enough - but that's a whole other issue!

The receptionist isn't being nosy by asking you about the nature of your visit. Often doctors want that information ahead of time so they also know what to expect. Someone who is coming in with a serious infection will require a different approach than someone who is coming in for a diabetes follow-up.

2- Write down your questions before your visit - and remember to bring them with you!

We all get them - thoughts and questions that seemingly come out of nowhere. And then we say to ourself, "I have to remember this." And then we don't. Don't let this be an issue when it comes to your health and visiting your doctor.

If necessary, keep a note pad by your bed, in your bag, by the phone - wherever you would find it to be most useful. When you think of a question, jot it down, and then bring that list with you. You may not need it, but isn't it better to have it to refresh your memory than to know there was something that you wanted to ask, but you can't think of it?

3- Ask for explanations.

Yes, doctors are busy people - but we are too. Everyone is busy. And, as busy as your doctor is, it is up to him or her to ensure you understand what you've been told. So, speak up. Don't just sit and listen. Speak up if something isn't clear. If you're handed a prescription, in prescription language, ask what it says in everyday language.

If you don't understand what is wrong or what you are supposed to do, you are no further ahead than you were before your appointment.

4- Show up on time.

Yes, often doctors make patients wait. Sometimes it is unavoidable because of emergencies or caring for some patients ended up taking longer than anticipated, and sometimes it is because the doctors don't schedule properly. But you should still show up on time. If your doctor isn't running late, you risk not being seen at all or rushed through your appointment.

If for some reason you can't make it to your appointment, call and cancel. Don't just not show up. That's rude and it doesn't allow for someone to take your spot if there's a cancellation list.

5- Do what you need to do before your visit.

If you've been told to have blood tests or x-rays, or any other type of consultation before your next appointment - do it. Your doctor needs those results to move forward with your diagnosis or treatment. If you show up without having done it, you're wasting your doctor's time as well as your own.

While these top 5 tips to get the best out of your doctors' visits won't guarantee that your appointments will be trouble-free, they should help get them in the right direction.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Phone It In Psychotherapy?

I'll be the first to admit that going for psychotherapy is not easy. There are some steps that you need to go through before therapy even becomes a viable option, let alone successful. That is why when I read a press release yesterday about phone-it-in therapy, I had my doubts. Very strong doubts.

According to the press release, researchers from Northwestern University studied 325 patients who were very depressed and who received psychotherapy either by phone or in-person. It doesn't say how many patients were in each group, but the researchers did say that only 20.9 percent of the patients who had cognitive behaviour therapy by phone dropped out of the program compared with 32.7 percent of people who had gone to traditional face-to-face sessions.

This difference doesn't surprise me. It's much easier to make a phone call from your home than to get up out of bed, get dressed. and go to your therapist's office. There are many times that I sure didn't want to make that effort.

The release goes on to say, "Patients in both therapies showed equally good improvement in their depression when treatment ended. Six months after treatment ended, all patients remained much improved." Interestingly, the release goes on to say that those who completed the telephone therapy also scored three points higher on the depression scale than did those who went to in-person sessions.

The researchers downplayed the three-point difference, saying that it might not be significant, but lead researcher, David Mohr, suggests that the face-to-face treatment is better for some people.

This is where my "gee, you think?" reaction kicks in. Mohr says, "The physical presence of the therapist may be therapeutic in a way that helps some patients maintain their improvement in mood. There may be a unique quality about the human contact that increases resilience and maintains the skills learned to manage depression after treatment has ended." Again, you think?

In my opinion, telephone calls have a definite place in therapy. There are times between sessions when you just need to speak to your therapist. You need to calm down, you need reassurance, you need to talk something out with someone who won't judge you - these are all good reasons for a phone call. But primary therapy? I have my strong doubts.

Getting professional help for depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness takes several steps for it to become reality and to be successful. Here are just three:

1- You have to be willing to do it. 
     Having people tell you that you should consult a psychologist and/or knowing theoretically that you would be better off doing so are not the same thing as accepting and knowing in your heart that seeking help would be a good thing to do. 
    I knew I had problems that needed to be resolved. I had pain that was coming out in all the wrong ways and I knew I was having trouble coping with certain situations. But would I admit that help from a psychologist would be good? That was a totally different thing. That took a long time, despite encouragement from my doctor, and my friends and family.

2- You have to find the right person.
    Saying that you will go for psychotherapy is difficult enough, finding the right person who will help you may be more so. Some people are fortunate and will luck into finding the right therapist fit straight away. Others have to do some shopping around before that becomes a reality. 
    It's so important to understand that if you don't click with one therapist that it is OK, really OK, to go find another. It may take many tries and that is where people may give up. After all, if you've given your all with one or two therapists, where can you get the energy and will power to try again with another?
    The problem is not unlike dating. You can't always hit it off when you date someone. You may dislike that person the first time you go out or you may date him or her for a few months before you realize that it's just not going to work out. With therapy, just like dating, you have to make the decision to move on if it isn't working out. You owe that to yourself.
    It took me three tries before I found the one psychologist I trusted. I don't know why that trust was there because I didn't trust many people - but it was. Not only was I lucky enough to find him, I was lucky enough that he had the time and wherewithal to help me. I know I wasn't an easy one. ;-)

3 - You have to be committed.
    Once you've decided that you do want to go through therapy and you've found the right person for you, you have to be committed to making this work. Therapy is not easy. There are many times that you may want to throw in the towel, tell your psychologist to take a flying leap off a tall building. 
    You may decide that you don't ever want to go back, that you don't want to subject yourself to the painful feelings that may come up during the therapy. But you have to. You have to trust that individual enough that he or she will help you through those painful feelings and help you come out on the other side.

I don't know if you can attain these three points by telephone.

In my mind, you need to physically be with a person to develop the level of trust it takes. Not only does the therapist need to see you - how you physically react to certain things - you need to see your therapist. You need to make that connection.

Some people may argue that Skype would be a good way to communicate with a therapist without physically being in his or her office. While this may be better (in my opinion) than telephone, Skype only allows you to see what the person on the other end allows you to see; in most cases, this is the face only. And faces only tell so much about a person.

Do you think that telephone therapy is a viable option? Perhaps it is a good idea if there is no other way. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bath Salts - Not Something to Joke About

It had all the hallmarks of an urban legend or a scary movie: Homeless man attacked and has face eaten off or Zombie Attacks American - but sadly, it's not a legend and it wasn't a movie scene. This truly happened a couple of weeks ago. A man in his thirties attacked a man in his 60s and literally chewed off a major portion of the older man's face.

The victim is still alive, but fights a major battle to prevent infection from setting in, not to mention the adjustment to what has happened to his face.

What would cause someone to commit such a strange and horrific act? The sad answer - street drugs - in this case, bath salts. But what are bath salts and why do they have such an effect on the user?

I was going to write a blog post on the topic of bath salts, but colleague Melanie Haiken did a fantastic job of it over at 'Bath Salts' - A Deadly new Drug With A Deceptively Innocent Name.

I had heard of bath salts before. Something came up last year about them, but I didn't pay much attention at the time. Maybe it is time for us to pay more attention to them before more people experience the horrific effects of the drug.

Had you heard of them before? If so, how did they come to be on your radar?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Relaxing Sundays - a completed quilt top

When I begin to feel that life is a bit overwhelming at times or I start to feel inadequate, I remind myself that I am very lucky to be able to indulge in a passion of mine, quilting.

Quilting is supposed to be relaxing. Unfortunately, too many times, some of us get frustrated at patterns that don't work well for us, fabrics that end up not working well together, or that things just aren't going together as  easily as we had hoped. This frustration runs contrary to the whole point of taking on a hobby, doesn't it?

Since I became more aware of my tendency to get frustrated over quilts that don't "go right,"  and the displeasure I experience when that happens, I've been able to take on more complicated patterns. How does that make sense? After all, doesn't the more complicated a pattern become, the higher the likelihood of making mistakes? Yes, that's true but.... by learning that most mistakes are fixable and that not all mistakes need to be fixed, the relaxation part comes in. The forcing of allowing myself to make mistakes and learn that they're not the end of the world has made me understand that life is ok, that mistakes happen and we move on. The world won't fall apart if I make a mistake. Wow, imagine that - I said that. Or wrote it for all to read. :-)

On May 25th, I attended a workshop on how to make the complicated Mariner's Compass pattern. I've heard many quilters say that they've never attempted it because it looks too difficult - and that they're not sure if they would ever try it. Well, I tried it. And I am absolutely thrilled with the results.

This morning,  I put the final border on the quilt. I absolutely love the way the fabrics all worked together and how I was able to put this into one quilt. Yes, there are mistakes. Some I fixed, some I ignored. For example, most of my points are great, some - not so much. But, a few months ago, maybe a few weeks ago, most of my points would not have been points and maybe a few of them may have been. So, we're talking progress here! Now, I just have to figure out how best to quilt this work of art to maximize the pattern. That will take some time, but that's ok. I'm in no rush. After all, this is to be relaxing, isn't it?

Here is my quilt top:

Pattern from Sheila Wintle, pieced by Marijke Vroomen Durning