by Rev. Yoruba Brewer,
Faith Community Nurse
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity
under the heavens: A time to be silent and a time to speak.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,7b (NIV)
The Holy Bible tells us that there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. Senior adults often become silent when interacting with the health care system.
Fear, anxiety, lack of knowledge and preparation, and feeling rushed by the provider are just a few reasons seniors do not speak up.
The average doctor-patient encounter averages 12 to 20 minutes. Whether this encounter is in the office, hospital, clinic, or emergency room, interacting with the health care system can sometimes be intimidating for seniors. Communicating effectively with care providers is very important for safe and efficient care. As a patient, you can participate in that care by “speaking up.”
How can seniors “speak up?” A program that gives simple advice on how patients can help make health care a safe and rewarding experience for patient and health care staff is called Speak Up ™. It’s sponsored by The Joint Commission (www.jointcommission.org), an independent not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 21,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States.
Here’s how you can Speak Up™:
S– Speak up if you have questions, comments, or concerns. If you don’t understand, ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask about safety concerning medication, treatments, tests, surgeries, or procedures.
P– Pay attention to the care you get. Make sure you are getting the right treatment, tests, and medication by the right health care professional. Don’t assume anything. Expect healthcare providers to introduce themselves. Look for identification badges. Make sure health care providers properly identify you. They should check your wrist band or ask you for your name and birthdate.
E– Educate yourself about your illness. Learn as much as you can about tests, medications, and treatment plans. Good places to obtain information other than your doctor are respected websites and support groups. Write down information that your doctor tells you. Read all medical forms and make sure you understand them before you sign anything.
A – Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate (advisor and supporter). Your advocate can ask questions that you may not think of. Ask your advocate to stay with you, even overnight if you are hospitalized. Your advocate can make sure that you follow your treatment plan. He or she also can help you remember answers to questions you have asked.
K– Know what medicines you take and why you take them. Medication error is the most common health care problem. Tell your provider about allergies or any use of herbal or over-the-counter medicine. Carry an updated list of your medications with you at all times.
U– Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other medical facility that is accredited. The Joint Commission is an example of a credentialing agency. Ask your doctor which facility will provide the best care for your condition.
P– Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the healthcare team. You and your doctor should agree on your care. Know who will be taking care of you. Understand that more tests and more medication may not always be the best course of treatment. Keep copies of your medical records. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Talk to your family and doctor about Advance Care Planning (Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will, or Five Wishes).
Remember that the visit with your healthcare provider is your time to question and learn—not to be silent. Do your part in making health care safe and efficient. SPEAK UP.