Focusing on Quality of Life

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide
  • I read an article in the April 16, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal titled, "The Simple Idea That Is Transforming Health Care." As I began to read the article I was first frustrated and then happy.


    I was frustrated that it has taken the traditional medical community so long to realize that their patient's aren't just a set of symptoms that comprise a disease, but rather that we are people who can suffer from our disease, have a poor quality of life, and all too often nobody seems to care too much about us other than if we're taking our medications and paying their bills.  


    This article starts by stating that medical professionals are beginning to understand the importance of asking patients, "How is your health affecting your quality of life?" After reading this my first reaction was, "Duh?" But then, I was happy to know that perhaps traditional medicine is trending in a better direction.

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    As a person who has lived with Inflammatory Bowel Disease for 15+ years, as well as the side effects of a benign brain tumor, and a few other less severe health issues, I can honestly say that I have only had two doctors in the past 15 years ask me about my quality of life - one is a gastroenterologist in Reno, Nevada who I found to be a wonderful and caring doctor despite his popularity and therefore limited time; the other is the Naturopath with whom I am currently working to get my colitis, and a few other issues, under control.


    The WSJ article states that health care providers are becoming more interested in looking at more than just numbers. They are pushing for, or beginning their own programs to have nurses and or trained counselors meet with patients who have chronic illnesses and ask them questions about how their illness affects their personal life, their work life, and their overall happiness, etc. Then these nurses or counselors are offering advice on how to manage some of their problems or concerns.


    It's a little ironic, in that this is pretty much what we do here at Health Central. We aren't doctors or nurses, but generally we are people who live with a specific health condition and therefore we understand the difficulties that condition can pose for so many other people living with that particular disease. We are one big support system for people who are living with a particular illness.


    As I've said in other posts long ago, my husband is wonderful at helping me when my IBD makes life difficult. But, even in his wonderfulness he still can't really understand what it's like to have IBD - and neither can the doctors or nurses or counselors that we might talk to. So, while I'm happy that doctor's might actually start to look at the whole of our person, rather than just the statistics of our illness, I'm also very glad that places like Health Central exist where we can share and help each other.


    And in addition to sharing with other patients, perhaps we do need to share with those around us who dont' have our illness. Let family and friends and maybe even co-workers know how we feel, how we become frustrated or depressed by our illness and the effects it has on our day-to-day lives. Sometimes just talking helps us to get a new perspective, or we might find that our friend or co-worker can be empathetic because of a chronic illness they have that we didn't know about.


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    I think it's good that the medical community is taking into consideration that we are people not just patients, or a numbered chart. And it might be helpful the next time you see your doctor to let them know that you wouldn't mind sharing with them for a few minutes how your illness is affecting your quality of life.


    That doctor I mentioned who practices back in Reno, came to know not only me over the 5 years I saw him, but he got to know my husband, he knew when I had a miscarriage and followed-up with me via telephone to see how I was coping. He knew, and remembered, what I did for a living, and he generally just cared how I was as a person and that meant the world to me at a time when my colitis was flaring terribly and having just one more person care about my well-being made all the difference in feeling like I could move forward each day in the hopes of improving my health and my life.


    I hope your quality of life is good. And that you are able to find a medical practitioner who cares about you. Hopefully this concept will take flight and infiltrate our entire communities. 


Published On: April 18, 2012