By Terri Waldman, director of TMC Geropsychiatric Center
Behavioral health practitioners have known for a long time that the mind and the body must work together for optimal wellness.
If a patient comes to the hospital with a cardiac event, for example, it’s very common that the patient will experience a depressive episode down the line. Without assistance to get through that period, the patient may well end up developing more physical health conditions.
We know if patients are eating right, exercising, finding emotional support and doing those things that truly build a strong foundation, their mental and physical health benefit.
The good news is that integrative care is becoming more common. And the other piece of good news is that integrative care is designed to empower patients as partners in their care. Patients are accountable for making responsible choices that help build quality of life – and a multidisciplinary team should be there to help support them in taking those next steps.
Here are some recommendations to foster a strong integrated approach:
- Partner in your treatment goals. I’ve always said aging isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re aged, you have coping strategies. So what are they? Family? Faith? Your work ethic? An effective care plan will build on those strengths, so please be open about what you think will work for you, and what won’t.
- Communicate with your providers. If you are like many patients with physical and behavioral health conditions, you may have a medical doctor, a specialist who treats a specific disease process, a psychologist, a social worker, a recreational therapist and an occupational therapist. More and more, providers are sharing information with one another, but it’s still important to tell all of the providers on the team about the full scope of your health conditions and what treatments you are pursuing. Some therapies and medications can interfere with the effectiveness of others – or worse, can interact in dangerous ways. The goal is to help prevent complications and side effects, so you can be your healthiest. It might be helpful to keep a record of your health journey that you can share with the members of the team.
- Seek out the meaningful moments You may well have serious medical problems. Maybe it’s Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease, or any number of ailments that can cause you to struggle. If, however, you let those struggles be the loudest, then you will never have real quality in your day. It takes time to develop a practice of saying, yes, I have a health challenge, but what’s good about today? You’re still waking up every day. So you can choose if you want to give all the power to Parkinson’s – or if you want to instead, focus on the value of having a loved one, or faith, or a career calling, in your life.
- Be an informed consumer. When a practitioner suggests a treatment approach, it’s important to ask some key questions, including risks and side effects, how to know if it’s working, length of treatment, whether there is clinical research to support that approach, and how you can best support the healing effort. Your provider should be willing to have this conversation with you.
This is an exciting time in the medical industry as we see more and more awareness of the importance of marrying the mind, body and spirit. Let’s keep working together to do it right.