Kindness in Action

geriatrician

Today was one of the best experiences I have ever had with a doctor, and I wasn’t even the patient.

My mom is 89 years old, and getting somewhat frail and forgetful. Another doctor had suggested that perhaps a geriatrician would be the most appropriate type of doctor to monitor her health and to coordinate her care among the many physicians that she sees.

So we scheduled an appointment a few weeks ago, and today the big day finally arrived.

The geriatrician was everything you would want in a doctor. She was kind, compassionate, knowledgable (before she became a doctor she was a pharmacist), and clearly had my mom’s best interests at heart.

The doctor spent over an hour with us, and she never seemed rushed. She wanted to learn as much as she could about my mom both as a person and as a patient so that she could create a plan of care that would work best.

I told her that some of the doctors that my mom sees just seem to go immediately to medication as the solution; she said she likes to get people off of as much medication as she can. Such a response scored huge points with me!

While I fully recognize the wonders that drugs can do, I also think that sometimes prescribing medications is the easiest approach for the doctor, but not always the best treatment for the patient. I would prefer that doctors try a non-drug approach first, perhaps through diet and exercise. Plus it’s hard to predict what some of the interactions might be when you are taking as many pills a day as my mom.

When the appointment was over, I left the geriatrician’s office wishing this woman could be my doctor!

But the great day did not end there.

While we were leaving, we passed an optician’s office on the ground floor of the medical building. I went in and explained how my mom’s glasses were quite loose, and were falling off whenever she would look down. The optician said she would be glad to help, and in a few minutes she had my mom’s glasses fixed and cleaned. I asked her how much it would cost, and she said “no charge, I was happy to fix them for her.”

After I left, I thought about what I had just experienced and realized that the bond that linked the two events together was kindness. The phrase “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” fit both situations perfectly.

I also realized that another common bond was that in each case it was a woman who was taking care of my mom. While I don’t think women have a monopoly on kindness in health care, it may be that they are more likely to initially approach a patient from such a perspective.

Perhaps “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness” by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval should be required reading for all health care professionals; heck it should be required reading for everyone.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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