Currently, our patients are living longer with more comorbidities and chronic illnesses. To provide optimal care, we must understand how these conditions impact physiologic and psychosocial health, as well as quality of life.
As patient advocates, we can provide open, honest, and transparent answers to healthcare questions, allowing patients to make informed decisions that reflect their personal wishes. The care plan should be developed with the patient and family, taking into consideration the anticipated physiologic changes that can occur with an illness or injury to maximize safety and lessen related anxiety.
It's equally important to understand how a chronic illness can affect psychosocial health. Collaborate with interdisciplinary team members to minimize delays in communicating diagnostic, treatment, or discharge planning information. Ensure that your patient's privacy is maintained and reduce environmental stimuli when communicating sensitive healthcare information such as undesirable test results. Because numerous healthcare decisions often must be made in a short period of time, this allows your patient and his or her family to fully process information and ask questions.
Many chronic illnesses involve one or more sensory organs or may decrease patients' level of independence with activities of daily living. Work together with your patient and ancillary team members, such as a social worker or case manager, to identify if his or her social support system can safely maintain the pre-diagnosis living environment. Medical treatments may have adverse reactions, causing patients to experience feelings of sadness or depression. Patients may apologize to healthcare team members as they communicate anger or fear when newly diagnosed with a physically limiting injury or chronic illness. Encourage your patient to verbalize feelings of sadness or loss to promote emotional processing and acceptance of physiologic changes. Help him or her identify resources such as support groups, community outreach programs, or activities that can provide a constructive focus.
During each encounter, you can positively influence your patients, their families, and the community by considering the anticipated disease pathway and best-practice management strategies to optimize quality of life. To learn about quality of life issues for fibromyalgia patients, turn to page 20.
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