We at Fidelity House Human Services are thrilled to present the first article of a new series! These articles are designed to provide health-support advice for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The nurses at Fidelity House have found that proper medical care is extremely important to practice (and perfect) so that people can continue to enjoy their day-to-day lives. We serve many people with complex medical needs and find creative ways to manage their unique situations. We want to share our insights so that you or your family/friends can focus on living a happy life while still paying attention to medical health.
Seemingly simple actions are often the most important. When our nurses need to set up a medical appointment, we get recommendations before helping people select a doctor. We call the doctor’s office before the appointment to discuss the physical environment. Helpful questions to ask are:
- Do they have a way to lift a person onto the exam table if necessary?
- Can they allow enthusiastic verbalization in the waiting room?
- Can they accommodate a person with a wheelchair or someone who needs to stay in motion while waiting?
After asking the approximate duration of the appointment, we let the office staff know that sometimes visits take longer because of the specific needs of the individual. We describe the person’s past reaction to medical care and may request a “practice” visit to the office before the appointment. We make sure that the office staff knows any specific needs that will help with the visit. Ask yourself or the individual these questions to give the doctor/staff helpful tips to make the appointment run smoothly.
- Does he or she require medication to help with anxiety?
- Does he or she listen to music on headphones during a visit?
- Is there a certain approach to doctor’s visits that has worked in the past?
- Does he or she need to be reminded about a pleasant activity or reward that will follow the medical appointment?
Helping people have a positive experience with a healthcare provider takes planning and clear communication with the office staff as well as the doctor. Be pleasant, but firm about what is needed from them. If you are polite and help the staff in the planning process, you will set the stage for an on-going beneficial relationship. Don’t forget to plan something fun to do after the medical appointment; we all need little rewards to help us get through the day!
Author: Elizabeth R. Steele RN BSN MS CDDN, VP of Health Services and Supported Home Care
Beth began working at Fidelity House Human Services in 1988 and has worked at Fidelity House in various capacities as the Health Care Coordinator, Associate Executive Director, and Director of Health Services. Her previous experience was in teaching healthcare paraprofessionals for the Greater Lawrence Department of Training and Development and several other agencies. She enjoys working with people with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities and the people who care for them. Her favorite part of the job is empowering caregivers through education and support.