Managing Families

When it comes to understanding the whole patient story, often family and friends can offer important additional insights. I remember caring for a patient with a history of CHF exacerbations when her son informed me that his mother often withheld her Lasix before trips. He told me, “Mom is planning her Mexico trip and tells me that she won’t take her Lasix so she isn’t hunting for a bathroom all the time”

It’s these types of insights that you get to learn a lot more about the patient. As we provide care to our patients, we can learn so much from a spouse, a daughter, or even a neighbor, when the patient allows them to participate in their care. These kinds of patient advocates can provide a comforting presence, and can often share insight and perspective that can be helpful in clinical care. Patient support systems are a critical part of the care team that can be immensely helpful for during and aftercare, discharge planning, and assuring the patient remains safe when they return to their home environment. 

This leads to the question: how can we incorporate a patient’s approved family and friends into the care of the patient? One way I have found to seek additional support is to simply ask patients, “Is there anybody in your life that you feel would be beneficial to include as we plan your care together?” An identified support network is important to include in crafting care plans, follow-up, and return precautions. Often care is complex, and additional sets of eyes and ears can help patients with safer self-care at home.

Another important action in managing families and other patient-approved supporters is simply recognizing and welcoming each of them as part of the care team. As patients provide permission to family members or other designated advocates to help and support their care, help to elevate their role through both invitation and appreciation for their partnership in care. Say something along the lines of: “I appreciate you being supportive as we provide care to your loved one. If it’s alright with your loved one we will include you as we plan their care” Supportive and aligned families can reduce admissions, improve chronic disease management and keep patients out of the emergency room. 

 As you provide care to your patients, consider asking them if they are willing to include family members or friends who would be supportive in their care. Share with them the value of having someone who can act as a partner, support, and advocate in their care alongside them. If you have a technique to engage families in the care of patients, share your approach in the comments below. We would love to learn from you! Share with us your story either here in the comments below or on Linkedin or Twitter.

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