Why we need to be Empowered Patients and Caregivers

When we are accessing medical care, we are doing so because something is wrong.  Our bodies, and often our heads, aren’t operating with their usual sharp and intelligent approach to problems because we are sick and hurt.  The very definition of needing healthcare is to seek treatment because something is wrong, and when we are debilitated we just can’t think as straight as we can when we are healthy.  Trisha Torrey – Founder of AdvoConnection and Author of “You Bet Your Life: The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes

 In the following education series we hope to give you the information and tools so you can get the healthcare you need and deserve within the BC Healthcare System.  Sometimes, to get the care you need, going to the United States or abroad may be an option – but we hope that with these tools, it can be your last option.

Our health care system is in crisis.  It’s going to get much worse as the huge bulge of baby boomers really begin to age.  The oncoming tsunami of Alzheimer’s and other dementias alone could cause the bankruptcy of our healthcare system.  In 2012, Statistics Canada determined that 3 in 10 adults were caregivers to family members.  By 2020, more than 10 million Canadians will be ‘caregivers’ to those with Alzheimer’s.

We no longer have the option of being passive patients where we hope and trust that our doctors and nurses and other health members are actively looking out for our individual good.

Blind trust in the medical system to give you the care and treatment that you need when you are at your sickest is an understandable, but a potentially dangerous thing to give your healthcare providers.  Those who are the best healthcare providers are caring, extremely knowledgeable and always act in their patient’s best interest.  At the other end of the spectrum, care providers are merely there for the pay-cheque and they really don’t care about their patients.  And, then there are the bulk of care providers in the middle: those who have the best for you and your family in mind but are massively overworked and walk away from a situation that could be better managed if they had the time and resources.

Blind trust came from a paternalistic medical system of the early to mid-1900’s when “doctor knew best” and he generally had time to do so.  There are many, many doctors who still think they know best and put their patients in jeopardy with that belief and their actions.

Patients and their families MUST be vigilant all of the time.  It’s like driving a car – a moment’s inattention can be deadly.  Most of the time, even during the height of rush-hour, most other drivers are behaving themselves and following the rules; it’s when you take your eyes off the road for just a moment that accidents happen.

All the stories I provide are from our practices as healthcare professionals and, now, as navigator-advocates.  I have changed the names and some of the details to protect their privacy.  Some of these stories will continue in other sections of the education series.

Details of formal complaint processes are given in, “How to Write an Effective Formal Complaint”.

 Keep your eyes on the road, which in this case, is your health care or the health care of your loved ones.  If you are unable to be physically present at a loved one’s bedside, hire someone – and train them what you want to see, say and do!!

You need to be watching that hands are washed, name and allergy bracelets are being checked, and that your loved one is being giving the caring attention they need and deserve.  See, “Surviving a Hospital Admission”.

It’s really hard work being sick.  Get the resources you need in place before you become exhausted.  Become empowered!

When you find yourself in one of these situations and you need support, please give us a call.


Statistics Canada: Family caregiving: What are the consequences? 2012.

Patient Pathways librarian recommends:

The European Patient Forum’s The Patients’ Charter on Patient Empowerment.

Not feeling empowered? Attend a Patient Pathways seminar – see our upcomeing events. We can also come to you! Book a seminar for your workplace or organization.