How to Have Good Doctor-Patient-Family Communications

Aug 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Gail at NM Conf on Aging

Gail Rubin presenting at the NM Conference on Aging

Last week, I presented a film-clip illustrated talk on improving doctor-patient-family communications at the New Mexico Conference on Aging. Titled “Doctor, How Long Do I Have?” the session featured clips from movies to illustrate both positive and negative interactions related to serious diagnoses, end-of-life, advance directives and physician aid-in-dying.

Films included Wit, 50/50, Patch Adams, The Shootist, The End, The Descendants, Checking Out and The Savages. After each clip, I pointed out what could have made each interaction better.

You can watch the video of the speaking portions below.

"Doctor How Long Do I Have?" Presentation

Here are a few tips from the talk:

Eye contact is important. It connects the concerns of the patient directly with the doctor. If either party is avoiding eye contact, that person is not truly listening.

Some questions to ask yourself before you make a decision about choosing a doctor: Did the doctor give me a chance to ask questions? Was the doctor really listening to me? Could I understand what the doctor was saying? Was I comfortable asking him or her to say it again?

Informed consent to treatment consists of three elements:

  1. The person giving consent is mentally competent
  2. That person gives their consent to treatment freely (no coercion)
  3. They understand the proposed treatment, including risks

This means asking lots of questions if you don’t understand what is actually being proposed. Questions could include: How will this treatment make me feel? What are the pros and cons at this stage? Do I have any other choices?

Always take someone else with you to a doctor’s appointment to be your extra eyes, ears and brain, to take notes and help ask questions. Especially when the doctor is delivering bad news, a patient can zone out out and not truly hear what is being said.

Discuss advance directives and funeral plans with elderly parents before dementia robs them of their ability to convey their wishes.

Here are two great resources to help have a good conversation: Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People from the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, and the Cancer Survival Toolbox, National Council for Cancer Survivorship.

To bring Certified Thanatologist Gail Rubin to your organization for an interesting and entertaining continuing education session, call her at 505.265.7215 to start the conversation!

A Good Goodbye