Advocating for Those Who Can’t

Even though my business is  nursing foot care, I am a registered nurse and when something isn’t right with one of my clients, I need to address it.  While doing foot care for one of my McDermott Footcare clients, I noticed that the symptoms of her chronic medical condition were more pronounced.  I convinced Mrs. X to make an appointment with her doctor then I wrote the doctor a note outlining my observations and concerns.  This is something I do for my clients when I see a change in their health status.  It usually works well.

Two days later, Mrs. X phoned to tell me that the doctor’s response was “well, we all know you’re deteriorating.”  At the present stage of my client’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.   Mrs. X didn’t question the doctor, but she was disappointed.

Registered nurses are bound by very strict laws of client/patient confidentiality.  Even though I wanted to talk to her family about the doctor’s response, I couldn’t since Mrs. X 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. 

Sometimes, the people we love need our help when 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 advocate for them.  You’ll still need to get their permission if they are capable of making their own decisions.  

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), 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 client 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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