Medicine is first and foremost a hard science. Laboratory research, measurable data, and the search for objective truths are what makes treatments actually work. Scientists experiment to develop drugs and other treatments that keep folks alive and well. Patients would not be able to trust their doctors and nurses if medicine were based on hunches and gut feelings. Doctors and nurses are scientists and technicians, and they need to get things right.
There’s a problem, though. Medicine treats people. And people are complicated. When medicine ignores the human element, things go haywire. Patients get confused. They get hurt. They get angry. Doctors and nurses need to be able to communicate their messages effectively if patients are going to be able to take care of themselves.
Over the past two decades, a growing movement has been calling for the medical fields to take some hints from their dreamy distant relatives over in the humanities. This movement (which includes doctors like Atul Gawande and Rita Charon, as well as writers like Eula Biss and the late Susan Sontag) aims to improve patient care by focusing on the things medical professionals don’t always learn in school: empathy, clear writing, ethical literacy, and more. As hospitals become more and more automated, this need becomes even greater. Our increasingly digital health care already leaves patients feeling alienated, and medical professionals need to work hard to bridge that gap.
What’s in it for the Patient?
Does it seem far-fetched to suggest that surgeons brush up on their Shakespeare? You might be surprised. Physicians who study the arts in addition to science have better understanding of patient-centered care. These doctors can relate to their patients better and thus tailor their messages to suit the situation. Patients often need to complete complex self- care plans after they get out of the hospital; doctors who understand their patients’ points of view will be better equipped to communicate those plans in plain language. Patients who understand a doctor’s orders will obviously have an easier time following doctor’s orders.
One common approach to closing communication gaps is called “narrative medicine.” Narrative medicine attempts to teach medics how to “treat the whole person.” A patient suffering from a terminal, chronic disease is more than a bunch of data points on a chart; a patient is a human being going through an intense and confusing experience. According to narrative approaches to medicine, physicians who look beyond the test results in order to get a more complete picture of the patient will do a better job of educating and treating the patient.
What’s in it for the Medical Professionals?
So what exactly can fiction and pretty pictures do for a hard working doctor? In addition to improved patient care, medics can get a lot out of creative endeavors. Doctors report that writing and reading provide stress relief, greater closeness to their patients and coworkers, and profound philosophical understanding of their lives. Doctors and nurses have ethically complex and emotionally taxing careers; art and literature give them a powerful tool for exploring their personal issues in a safe environment. In short, the humanities can provide medics with that ever-elusive but essential thing: meaning.
Diabetes is a common disease that affects approximately 30 million Americans of all ages. Although Type 2 Diabetes is most commonly diagnosed, many individuals are misdiagnosed and receive treatment for the wrong type of diabetes. While both types, 1 and 2, are similar, patients can become more ill or even die if they fail to treat the correct type of diabetes.
“Many medical conditions, such as diabetes, require a timely and correct diagnosis in order to effectively treat the illness,” says Abelson, a Washington DC Medical Malpractice Lawyer, “unfortunately, doctors and other medical professionals frequently fail to make a prompt and proper diagnosis, which may result in serious medical complications.” If you have diabetes, it’s crucial that you are being treated for the correct type and pay close attention to any negative changes in your health once you have received a diagnosis.
Everyone has heard of it and millions of people have been diagnosed with it, but not many people understand diabetes or know that there are different types. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder and occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin (the hormone that regulates the amount of glucose in the bloodstream). Glucose is made up of the sugars and starches found in a variety of foods and creates energy. An individual with diabetes doesn’t have enough insulin or the body doesn’t use it effectively and as a result the glucose levels rise to dangerous levels.
- Type 1: This type is also known as “Juvenile Diabetes” as it is typically diagnosed in younger people from children to young adults. This less common type of diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to make insulin because the immune system has destroyed the beta cells in the pancreas.
- Type 2: This type of diabetes is most common, found most often in adults, and is also often misdiagnosed or diagnosed late. Type 2 is often related to genetics and obesity. Excess weight forces the pancreas to produce more insulin, but over time with continued strain, the pancreas loses ability to produce enough insulin to keep glucose levels normal.
Untreated diabetes, both types, can have symptoms similar to other health issues. As a result, some diabetes cases are improperly diagnosed. For instance, if a young patient comes into the doctor’s office with dizzy spells and extreme fatigue, doctors may be quick to diagnose the flu or a viral infection, treat it with antibiotics and send the family home (when in reality, the child has Type 1 diabetes). In just a few short hours, a wrong diagnosis can threaten a patient’s health to a deadly degree.
Properly diagnosing a patient with diabetes can also prevent the development of fatal diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Diabetes symptoms can vary from blurred vision to irritability to numb arms and legs. It’s important to remember that not every individual experiences the same symptoms. Individuals who suspect they have diabetes or are diagnosed with the disease should keep close tabs on their symptoms, communicate with their doctor, and always get a second opinion if there is any doubt or fear of misdiagnosis.
Losing weight is hard. Fast food, lack of time, expensive equipment, and conflicting nutritional advice all seem to conspire to keep you from getting into the shape you want. Dietary plans and exercise regimens are hard to follow; it’s extremely difficult to pay attention to everything you eat, every stray bit of exercise you get in, and every time you slip up. Even if you get a good plan, you have difficulty knowing how well or poorly you’re following it.
Self-monitoring apps attempt to solve these problems. Get the right program, and you’ve got a dietitian, and personal trainer, and health journal all at your fingertips. While the research into these apps’ success rates is still unclear, there is no doubt that they work for many people. Here are some of the big ways in which self-monitoring apps can help you stay healthy.
Simply knowing what to do and what to avoid is a big problem for many would-be health nuts. Ask ten people their health advice and you’ll get ten answers. A good self-monitoring health app—be it nutrition, heart health, or diabetes tracking—will give you consistent advice. And consistency is a big deal; sticking to one plan ensure you won’t jump from strategy to another, following whatever is convenient at the moment. And, since the app’s on your phone, a second opinion is a just a couple Google clicks away. Apps can tell you what to eat, when to exercise, and even how much alcohol you’re safe to drink. Self-monitoring programs can fill your head with knowledge and your body with nutrition.
Self-monitoring apps can give you great advice on what to do and when. One difficulty of taking care of yourself is that there’s too much information out there. You can get overwhelmed with decisions. Many psychological researchers point to decision fatigue as a legitimate obstacle for people in every walk of life. Making constant choices about what to eat, when to run, and whether or not to take one action or another is a real pitfall of self-care. If it’s too complicated, you’ll give up. Life is complicated enough. An app that makes recommendations for you can spare you some much- needed brain power. And, since many apps are designed using expert advice, you can trust that those tips are good.
Self-monitoring apps help you keep track of what you do and when. One great aspect of this trait is that even when you slip up, you’re generating good data to use for later. You can look for, say, everything you ate last July, when you gained 20 pounds. Detailed records can provide insight into what you did, how you felt, and what you should do next time. A mysterious illness or depression may not be so hard to figure out when you back and see you spent the previous two weeks eating nothing but cupcakes. And, of course, the simple act of recording your life can provide big benefits, mental and physical.
Having healthy eyesight is one aspect of our lives that many of us take for granted. We rely so heavily on our eyesight every day that we can easily end up thinking about our vision as a part of our life that doesn’t need any special care. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Some of us are blessed with perfect vision, and many of us need corrective lenses for 20/20 eyesight, but we can all benefit from some tips on keeping our most precious sense working at its best.
Give Your Eyes a Rest
You wouldn’t stand up all day if you could help it, right? The muscles in your legs would end up tired and sore. So why would you submit your eyes to the same treatment?
Looking at a computer screen all day can put a significant strain on your eyes if you don’t give them a break. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. For every twenty minutes of screen time, take at least twenty seconds to look at an object twenty feet or more away from you.
This breaks up the periods of intense close-up focusing that your eyes are forced to do when you’re staring at a computer screen or even reading.
Getting a bad sunburn during the summer is painful and harmful to your skin, but think about what that same sun exposure is potentially doing to your eyes. Too much UV exposure from the sun can contribute to macular degeneration and cataracts as you age, so think about investing in a pair of sunglasses that have both UVA and UVB protection.
Feed Your Eyes
Eating a well-balanced diet is important in maintaining healthy eyesight. Just like the rest of your body, your eyes benefit from a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables. Eating well also helps you maintain a healthy weight, and lowers your chances for type 2 diabetes—one of the leading causes of blindness in adults.
Just like eating well, smoking has an overall effect on your body, but in the opposite sense. You may not hear about smoking’s impact on vision as much as its other harmful effects, but smoking makes you more at risk for cataracts and macular degeneration.
If you are a smoker, quitting immediately is the best thing to do, and if you’ve never picked up a cigarette, don’t start now!
It was only last year that the NHL made visors for hockey players mandatory, and we can’t help but wince at how long that took. Sports and work related eye injuries occur all the time, and never when you’re expecting them.
Stay safe and wear protective eyewear whenever you’re in an environment with a potential risk to your eyesight. After all, what’s more important—winning that pickup game or keeping your 20/20 vision?
Maintaining healthy eyesight isn’t the hardest thing in the world. It just takes a little thought and effort on your part. Your eyes give life to the world around you, so keep them in the best shape possible with just a few daily measures.
Emily Hunter crafts content on behalf of the LASIK eye surgeons at Eyecare 20/20. In her spare time, she cheers for Spirit of Atlanta, Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, creates her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen
Unfortunately nursing home neglect and injuries are more common than we think. Read below for some of the worst stories we have heard.
The first memory I have is of my mother’s mother – my Gigi. I didn’t realize until I was in my 20’s that Gigi was actually “G.G.” for “great-grandmother.” She was just my Gigi. The memory is of sitting on her lap in her living room. It was dark, as always, since she didn’t want to waste electricity by having the room too bright.
I could feel the bones of her legs under mine through my green corduroy pants and her faded wool skirt. She smelled of moth balls and chicken soup. Knowing Gigi, she had probably dabbed a bit of both behind her ears. She was reading a book to me; a book she was holding with her thin, almost translucent hands.
Help is Needed
Those hands were so delicate and yet so strong. With them she had raised 8 kids, battled the Great Depression, grieved with the country with the Kennedy’s were assassinated and listened to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Those hands, covered with dark spots the size of quarters, whose edges almost overlapped until there was more dark than light in places. Those hands, with rivers of dark blue running in relief, like a 3D map of her life. Those hands that could no longer stay still. Those hands that had soothed and punished her three boys and five girls. Those hands that could no longer take care of her. Gigi started calling me by my mom’s name, by my aunt’s name … sometimes even by her dead sister’s name. Then Gigi couldn’t drive anymore. Then Gigi couldn’t remember where she lived or if she’d taken her medicine or what year it was. Gigi came to live with us for a while, but she left the gas burner on once and started a kitchen fire. Then she went for a walk in the middle of the night and the police from two towns over brought her back.
Shortly after that, Gigi moved into a nursing home. When I was old enough to drive, I would go to see Gigi after school. She was almost always asleep when I arrived, but would perk up as if she had been napping to get extra strength to visit with me. One time, I walked in to find her room smelling of urine. I asked if she was OK and she confessed that she’d had an “accident” and pointed to the panties draped over a lamp. I ignored the accident bit – I’m sure she was embarrassed enough – but just had to tell her that it wasn’t a good idea to hang anything flammable from a heat source.
While I never saw anything as bad as the nursing home horror stories on the news, I know something about nursing home neglect. My poor Gigi, who was such a strong and confident woman, became a shell. The lost nearly 40 pounds that she didn’t have to spare. She always said she wasn’t hungry, but managed to eat if I fed her. I asked the staff several times if they couldn’t please make it a point to have someone help her eat at least once a day. I was always told that they did the best they could and Gigi was eating as she should. I know that wasn’t true. In the end, Gigi had less than 90 pounds on her 5’8” frame. She died of “natural causes” but I knew that wasn’t true. She died for lack of attention, nutrition and entertainment. She died of boredom and starvation. She died of embarrassment because she was too strong to ask for help eating.
Not the Worst Nursing Home Horror Stories … But Not Good Enough
I’m glad that Gigi didn’t die of exposure like the poor man in Oak Lawn, IL. Nor did she ever have sores untended so long that they developed maggots. What she also didn’t have was someone that took care of her on a consistent basis, someone that was held accountable for Gigi’s status. I did the best I could to take care of Gigi while my mom worked 3 jobs to take care of me. I wish I had been able to do more for Gigi. I know that if it ever comes to the point when my mom needs more help than I can give, I’ll hire home health nurses or do whatever I have to do to make sure I don’t lose Mom like I lost Gigi to nursing home neglect.
Contrary to the popular belief that you can contract toenail fungus by trading shoes with someone who has a fungal infection, the immune system is what makes the final call. If your immune system is intact, you could walk away unscathed.
So, where does this leave individuals with autoimmune disorders such as diabetes?
One of the reasons that nail fungus is so common among the elderly is because many elderly individuals are also diabetic.
Individuals with diabetes often find themselves in a vicious cycle once they’ve contracted nail fungus. This is because diabetes patients cannot regulate their insulin levels naturally, leading to unusually high blood-sugar levels. That’s right, sugar, he one thing that most people can’t get enough of and the one thing upon which diabetics depend without fail. Fungus is so dependent upon sugar that it could live and thrive on sugar alone- and it does.