COPD insider

 

 

How partnering with your patient's support system can improve outcomes

You do your best to speak clearly, be specific, and give your patients the time they need. But are they really hearing you? A health buddy may be just what the doctor ordered. Discover how a health buddy can help ensure your great efforts turn into great outcomes.  

 

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You try to make every patient encounter clear and direct and you encourage patients to ask questions. But you may be delivering some life-changing news, highly technical information, or critical steps to take. How can you be sure patients with COPD hear you clearly, fully comprehend or remember what you say, or even remember what they want to ask?

 

One way to help ensure these encounters are successful, and patients leave with clear information, is to encourage them to bring a buddy.

The buddy system

 

Call it a health buddy, healthcare partner, or informal caregiver. Patients with COPD need support, especially during appointments or discharge from the hospital. A health buddy is critical to ensuring your patient leaves with the right information and is set up for success at home. They can also help you get a more complete picture of the patient, filling in details some patients may neglect to mention. They can also help your patient feel more at ease and confident about the encounter because they know someone else is hearing the same information in real time. A health buddy gives you the opportunity to engage with the patient in a more complete and meaningful way.

Contributors

Les Duncan

Christine Cunningham, RRT

Director of Clinical Services

CHI Health at Home

Jennifer Anderson

Jennifer Anderson, MBA, RRT, AE-C

Director Respiratory Care and

Pulmonary Function Labs

AU Medical Center

Les Duncan

Les Duncan

Director of Operations

Highmark-Community and Health Services

Becky Anderson

Becky Anderson, RRT

Manager,

Respiratory Care Services,

Sanford Medical Center

A health buddy can not only reinforce, but also encourage the patient. It only increases our chances at success.”

Christine Cunningham, RRT

Director of Clinical Services, CHI Health at Home

Should you require a buddy?

 

Most institutions don’t require a health buddy at every appointment. But should they? Here are four reasons to consider requiring a health buddy:

1

     

Improved retention

 

Your patient may have a lot on his or her mind. Add stress or anxiety, and there’s a good chance that the important information you’re sharing may not be retained. Recalling it with accuracy later and putting your plan into action can be even tougher. A health buddy can be a second set of ears, listening to (and writing down) the critical information you share and helping to ensure it gets implemented and adhered to.

2

     

Increased accountability

 

When a buddy is present, patients could have a greater sense of accountability. That’s because the buddy has taken time out of their day to be there for the patient. Often, the patient doesn’t want to disappoint, which creates a deeper level of responsibility.

3

     

Enhanced adherence

 

A health buddy can go a long way in helping your patient adhere to the treatment goals you set forth. From picking up medications, keeping track of when each medication is taken or missed and encouraging the patient to stay on track with your care plan, a health buddy provides an invaluable resource.

4

     

Support system

 

A health buddy can support your patient beyond the appointment.1 For example, they can gather information about COPD, its progression, prognosis and treatment options to help keep your patient informed. They are also there to provide emotional and psychosocial support, which can be invaluable when living with a chronic disease like COPD.

Partnering with a patient’s support system

On the need to uncover a patient's story video
So partnering with families or the support system, the community, whoever is partnering with that patient is extremely important in improving outcomes both for the patient and for health systems.”

Becky Anderson, RRT

Manager, Respiratory Care Services Sanford Medical Center

Who can be a buddy?

 

A family member is an obvious choice to be your patient’s informal caregiver. But patients don’t always have family members nearby or who can leave work for frequent appointments. Here are three alternative places to look when seeking a health buddy:

1

     

Their place of worship or faith-based organizations

 

Many faith-based organizations have a strong support system ready to mobilize when someone in the community needs care. Encourage your patient to ask if someone in their faith community will be their healthcare partner.

2

     

In-home care agencies

 

Care agencies provide myriad services and become very close to the patients they assist. If your patient has an in-home caregiver they like and trust, encourage them to accompany your patient to all of his or her appointments. 

3

     

Neighbors and community members

 

Whether your patient lives independently, in a senior community or in a group home, neighbors often are available and willing to help. Encourage your patient to ask a trusted neighbor or friend to be their healthcare buddy.

Create buddy conections

 

Many patients may want to bring a health buddy, but don’t feel comfortable asking where to start looking for one. You can provide an invaluable service by keeping a list of local organizations, such as those listed above, that you can provide patients in need.

 

If you proactively bring offer this information, you can help avoid discomfort and promote good results.

Search for a connection icon
You get a variety of different people as health buddies. They may not want their daughter or son, it may be a neighbor.”

Christine Cunningham, RRT

Director of Clinical Services, CHI Health at Home

Help for the Helpers

 

A health buddy is there for your patient, but they don’t necessarily know of all the support services available to them. Here are three resources you can share with informal caregivers that help them take care of themselves and be better buddies.

Family caregiver alliance icon

Family Caregiver Alliance        

 

The Family Caregiver Alliance supports and sustains the important work of families nationwide caring for adult loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions. In addition to classes, events, webinars, and videos, there are disease-state–specific fact sheets, support groups, and a state-specific care locator that helps caregivers identify public, nonprofit, and private programs and services nearest to their loved one.

 

www.caregiver.org

Caring.com icon

Caring.com        

 

This offers state-specific information on senior care, including resources and living facilities. There is also a COPD-specific support group for caregivers.

 

www.caring.com

eldercare.gov icon

Eldercare.gov      

 

This is a public service of the US Administration on Aging. It connects caregivers to community services by location or topic.

 

www.eldercare.gov


Caring for someone with COPD can be challenging

 

Results from one study showed that2:

35%

of informal caregivers had health-related problems due to the caregiving provided  

83%

had leisure/social-related problems  

38%

recognized having profession-related problems when they are of working age  

What can you do to ease this burden?

 

If the caregiver seems tired or stressed, perhaps a member of the care team can check in with them or put them in touch with caregiver resources available in your area. You can also remind caregivers to take care of themselves:

 

  • Take a day off
  • Ask for help
  • Join a support group

 

Extending your care and concern to your patient’s caregiver can go a long way in protecting this unofficial member of your care team.

Ease the burden icon

 

Partnering with your patient’s support system—be it family, a neighbor, or community member—can go a long way in improving outcomes both for the patient and for health systems. Encourage your COPD patients to always have a health buddy with them to ensure what you say is heard and implemented.

References
1.
Bryant J, Mansfield E, Boyes AW, Waller A, Sanson-Fisher R, Regan T. Involvement of informal caregivers in supporting patients with COPD: a review of intervention studies. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2016; 11:1587-1596.

2. Miravitlles M, Peña-Longobardo LM, Oliva-Moreno J, Hidalgo-Vega Á. Caregivers’ burden in patients with COPD. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2015:10 347-356.

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