Confessions of a non-compliant patient

by Carolyn Thomas @HeartSisters


Consider this scenario, dear reader:  I’m lying in bed one Sunday evening, settled in to watch 60 Minutes for the next hour. But this Sunday is different from any other Sunday because I’ve had three new things to deal with during the past week that are utterly separate from my laundry list of daily cardiac concerns:

  1. I’ve been having physiotherapy three times a week because I twisted my right knee (same one I had knee surgery on seven years ago).
  2. I’m using a new prescription ointment for a pesky patch of psoriasis on my left elbow.
  3. I’m wearing a brand new acrylic mouth guard to bed every night that my dentist has just made for me to help treat a longstanding jaw alignment problem.

So. Here I am lying in bed that Sunday evening as our story unfolds . . . Continue reading “Confessions of a non-compliant patient”

Patient engagement? How about doctor engagement?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

It’s a stressful time to be a patient these days, what with expectations running high that we should be both empowered and engaged while self-tracking every trackable health indicator possible – and of course retaining an all-important positive mental attitude – in order to change health care forever. 

Whew. I had to go have a wee lie-down just thinking about how big that responsibility may seem on days when we patients are feeling, yes, sick –  as an annoyingly significant number of patients living with a chronic and progressive illness tend to feel on any given day. That’s why we’re sometimes called “patients”.   Continue reading “Patient engagement? How about doctor engagement?”

Living with the “burden of treatment”

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Dr. Victor Montori of Mayo Clinic describes two types of patients living with chronic illness who don’t follow their physicians’ advice when it comes to implementing recommended treatments or therapies. The first group may just not want to take the pills, or they want to try natural remedies instead, or they want to get better on their own, or they can’t afford their meds, or they just don’t trust that these recommendations will work for them.

But the second group of patients, Dr. Montori explains, may be working very hard to do everything their doctors have suggested (like taking prescribed meds, monitoring their vital signs, coming to all appointments – not only with doctors but with nurses or dieticians or other health care providers). Doing all that takes so much time and effort – on top of feeling sick a lot, juggling family, work and social life – that it can get to be too much.

So they just stop doing it.

Dr. Montori and his like-minded colleagues call this scenario the “burden of treatment” for patients.  Continue reading “Living with the “burden of treatment””

My lowly beginnings as an empowered patient

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I still remember the day when it all began. I was very sick (don’t remember exactly what the sickness was, because I was only about five years old at the time). But I was sick enough for my mother to call our family physician, Dr. Zaritsky, who came right over to the house to see me.  (Yes, that is how old I am. I actually do remember when family docs made house calls).

Dr. Zaritsky declared that I needed an injection to treat whatever was ailing me, but – horrors! – the injection was to be done by pulling down my pajama bottoms and jabbing me right in the bare bum.

I was outraged!   Continue reading “My lowly beginnings as an empowered patient”

Why you’ll listen to me – but not to your doctor

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

As I like to remind my women’s heart health presentation audiences, I am not a physician. I’m not a nurse. I am merely a dull-witted heart attack survivor. I also warn them that a lot of what I’m about to say to them is already available out there, likely printed on some wrinkled-up Heart and Stroke Foundation brochures stuffed into the magazine racks at their doctor’s office.

So when the organizer of one of my free upcoming WomenHeart talks at a large community centre where I speak twice a year called me to say that registration for this presentation is already full with a waiting list – and that’s with weeks still to go yet! – my interest was piqued.

As any experienced public speaker can appreciate, you’re only as good as the audience thinks you are. When a repeat event like mine fills up quickly thanks almost entirely to word-of-mouth buzz, this tells me that women attending this talk must be pretty darned motivated to learn more about how they can improve their heart health.

But meanwhile, many doctors I know lament the fact that it’s tough for them to motivate their patients to even think about lifestyle improvements to modify known heart disease risks.  Continue reading “Why you’ll listen to me – but not to your doctor”