Saturday, December 21, 2013

Don't Just Do Something Stand There

I first wrote this more than two years ago and it was directed towards the dedicated Health Assistants who work with me at Accolade.  I was asked to reprint it for them as the message still holds, especially in this holiday season when the most chronic of problems can seem to be even more insolvable. As I read it, while the message is directed towards Accolade Health Assistants, it actually is true for all of those in the caring professions.

We have developed, and continue to develop, a wonderful culture of problem solving, and of helping.  That culture is being built by every one of you as you work every day to help your clients and their families.  It is something we strive for and it is what makes us successful.  Because we are all such problem solvers, dealing with people who have problems that are not amenable to a solution, an answer, can cause us to be frustrated.  That frustration comes through to our clients and we cease to be effective.  So, the question is how to be most effective when solutions do not exist.  How do we deal with our own desire to change a bad situation when we have no control over the situation?  How do we learn to just stand there and why would we want to?

Lately, I have been discussing clients with many of you whose problems go back many years.  These problems have had numerous attempts at solutions, stops and starts in therapy, and frustrated health professionals who end up ineffective.  I do not want us to join the list of frustrated professionals, who have failed to find solutions.  The fact is that there are many problems that have no solutions. 

You cannot reverse an irreversible illness; you cannot make an anorexic eat over the telephone; you cannot explain and treat symptoms that are related to underlying causes that go deeper physically and emotionally than current knowledge can fathom.  We cannot perform the big miracles that these people need. 

However we can do a lot just by being there.  We can create small miracles that, over time, can lead to very meaningful results to the client and their family.  We can help people deal with the hand they are dealt and live with their own reality, in such a way as to enjoy and embrace their lives. 

We do all this by listening, by informing, and by accepting the client as they are.  We provide a safe person, their Health Assistant, who will hear them and will gently influence them towards attitudes and behaviors that will lead them to make better health decisions.  We will give them a trusted person who helps them when they need help and comforts them in a very human way when there is no medical science that can help them. 

When we do all this, it turns out we will create small miracles that can turn into very large results.  When we do this also, we help people make better decisions and that will save them and our customer companies money as well.  We have found out how to work miracles as we improve care and save money but the way we do it is by each and every one of us understanding our limitations and understanding the power of listening and empathy rather than trying to cure every ill.