Caregiving: Help with ears, voice and extended arms CAN YOU HELP? These sailors from the USS Bremerton submarine had special mechanical skills and volunteered to “tune up” dozens of wheelchairs at the Hakuiyu Nursing Home in Sasebo, Japan. The work was fun for the sailors and residents and, most importantly, took advantage of the sailors’ area of expertise. U.S. Navy photo by John Westbay, courtesy of Wikimedia Comons

Dr. Wayne Baker welcomes Heather Jose, a teacher, healthcare provider and activist with a website called Go Beyond Treatment.

Millions of families need caregivers; millons of Americans are volunteering.
The question this week is:
How can you ensure that help is truly helpful?

Today, I’m going to suggest three general principles for caregivers. Please add to our list of ideas. All three of these ideas involve caregivers helping someone they love navigate the healthcare system.

EARS: At a doctor’s appointment, an extra set of ears is a good idea. Patients are often what I call “hyperhearers,” meaning that we only hear certain statements and fail to retain any other information. There have been many times after a meeting with my oncologist when my husband and I have compared notes and found that we heard very different things. He is more factual, I am more emotional. I would have been missing some crucial pieces of info at times without my extra ears.

VOICE: If you are having a test done it is also nice to have someone with you. Tests are emotional and often times taxing. While some tests are quick and fast, many of them require multiple steps and hours of waiting. Unfortunately, I don’t find the techs to be overly sympathetic to the fact that test results matter to patients. It is nice to have someone to mull over concerns of the day with you.

EXTENDED ARMS: Finally, if you are in the hospital having a caregiver present as much as possible is a bonus. It need not be the same person all the time. This may be a good time to enlist your entire support network. I have found that the staff’s perception of you changes when they can see the patient as a “real person”—the relationship and level of care improves. The image of a sick person fades as the role of parent, daughter or professional reveals itself. As a healthcare provider myself, I know that the more I get to know people the more willing I am to do something extra for them. It’s human nature.

Please, add to our list: What do you find helpful?

What challenges have you faced in the healthcare system?

What suggestions can you give caregivers?

Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

Heather Jose is the author of  Letters to Sydney: Every Day I am Killing Cancer, co-author of The Healing Agreement—and a contributing writer for Coping Magazine and Thrive.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email