Wednesday 29 November 2017

I Never Identify a Problem Without Suggesting a Solution!

In my last post, I talked about how we can easily move from being caregiver to being perceived by medical professionals as 'a family from hell'. This breakdown of relationships with doctors, nurses and therapists can happen especially when your loved one's needs are very high, interventions have turned out badly, desperation enters the picture and professionals are up against the wall with few options to ease suffering. 

That's the problem. But luckily, Dr. Yona Lunsky, a very clever and compassionate doctor-researcher (who is also a sibling of an adult sister with disabilities) has taken it upon herself to educate colleagues on how to re-frame their thinking about 'difficult families'. Dr. Lunsky is Director of the Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD) Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. She skilfully employs her prestigious academic credentials to advocate for proactive and compassionate care of adults with developmental disabilities and their families. 

Dr. Lunsky's dual family and clinical lens combined with her solution-based advocacy approach led her to write this guide for medical professionals treating 'difficult families'. 

Dr. Lunsky advocates with great compassion for her colleagues. Here's how she describes a scenario of a fictional clinician called Janet: Janet got another call from Sonya’s parents, complaining about everything. These days, it feels like there is something upsetting them almost weekly. Why does it have to be her job to be the one having to deal with this?

Lunsky understands that clinicians want to help their patients. But, she goes on to say - "No one told Janet that she had to work with families. She came to the field because she wanted to help people with developmental disabilities. This other business was not part of what she signed on for." Advocating with empathy opens the door to the possibility of attitude change. 

Here are Dr. Lunsky's lessons for her colleagues: 

Lesson Number 1: There is no such thing as difficult families. There are just families with difficulties. 

Lesson Number 2: Family perspectives may be different but that doesn’t make them wrong.

If you are experiencing a fractious relationship with the clinical support staff in your life, read Dr. Lunsky's guide and consider sharing it with your doctor or case manager. Use Dr. Lunsky's example and advocate with empathy for the good of shared understanding and most of all, compassionate care for your loved one. 

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