Handbook for Mortals : Getting the help you need : What to do when things don't go well

When things seem out of control, try to find a sympathetic person who knows the care system well and who can help you see new perspectives and creative solutions. If you feel that you or someone you love is being treated poorly, you will probably have to find the energy and thoughtfulness to complain effectively. Hospitals and health care providers are not unfeeling or malicious although you may sometimes think they are. It may help you to recognize that problems are often the result of systems and procedures designed to cure disease, or at the very least, prolong life. If you can imagine yourself in the doctor or nurse's place, you might be better able to state your concerns constructively, without creating tension and hard feelings.

When you complain, try not to just "take it out" on whoever is closest. Probably the person who has to be persuaded that something is wrong is not nearby. Find out who supervises the care you find troubling. Then set a time to talk with that person. Write down the key facts to remind you of the things that will make the person see just how important the problem is.

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Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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