Getting Un-Stuck

This week I want to share with you two articles about ways to move on in life after a diagnosis of chronic illness or a catastrophic injury. The first article is about how to deal with grief over chronic illness. The second article is about psychosocial care and why it is so important to catastrophic injuries. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

Grieving the Life I Had Before Chronic Illness 

The definition of grief is the intense psychological process brought on by a loss. Everyone has dealt with some level of grief in their life, most likely from the death of a loved one. While the grieving process takes time, eventually there is acceptance when the shock lessens. However, what if the situation you’re grieving for never truly ends, such as a chronic illness, where many feel they lost many things such as their health, confidence or autonomy? This article is written by a woman who felt just that and how she is learning to manage it and move towards acceptance.

Mark’s Thoughts:
I have mentioned in the past how a serious injury at work and/or the advent of Chronic Pain can initiate the grief process. This author does a much better job of explaining it…because she lived it:

“I lost my health, my ability to stand up, to think clearly, to see straight, to run, to hike, to work out, to go out, to feel normal. I lost my ability to do the things that constituted my every day: going to school, going to work, living alone, going out with friends, my ability to drive. I lost my sense of self; I previously felt strong, confident and indestructible in my daily life. I was fit, I was active, I was healthy. I lost my sense of autonomy – the belief that I could do anything I set my mind out to. I lost my sense of purpose and accomplishment; I lost my academic scholarship for school, my ability to read and learn, my drive. I literally lost everything that made me, me.”

Not that it’s easy (and after reading this you’ll know it’s not), but the goal is Acceptance. If you’re in that situation but not yet reached that step, find somebody to talk to. For people “stuck” in the early stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression), sometimes a little push is needed to help them make progress. That’s when Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be very helpful. If you’re not familiar with it, Psychology Today defines it as follows: “Clients learn to stop avoiding, denying, and struggling with their inner emotions and, instead, accept that these deeper feelings are appropriate responses to certain situations that should not prevent them from moving forward in their lives. With this understanding, clients begin to accept their issues and hardships and commit to making necessary changes in their behavior, regardless of what is going on in their lives, and how they feel about it.”

Psychosocial Care: The Secret Sauce to Successful Patient Outcomes

When dealing with catastrophic physical injuries, it is important that the patient have psychosocial care—treatment that addresses many social and emotional factors that are involved with the injury. Shaped by their past, influenced by their present, and speculative as to their future, psychosocial factors can heavily impact the course and outcome of care. A holistic approach to treatment has a clear and positive effect on patient outcomes by helping them rediscover confidence and meaning in their lives as they define their “new normal.”

Mark’s Thoughts:
#BioPsychoSocialSpiritual is not just a hashtag—it’s a best practice in how to help people recover from an injury or learn how to manage their “new normal.” This blogpost explains how it works when it comes to “catastrophic spinal cord and brain injuries” but these are best practices regardless of the type of injury or the chances of full recovery. I especially appreciated the delineation between “multi-disciplinary” and “inter-disciplinary.” Spoiler alert—”inter” is more effective (which I learned in-person from the best practitioners around the country, including Craig Hospital, starting in 2011). “For a center to provide truly excellent psychosocial care, the team must be interdisciplinary with each member working in concert, using each other’s strengths, always with the patient’s goals in mind.” The good news is that many in Work Comp now understand the value of psychosocial care. The not-so-good-news is that intellectual acknowledgment doesn’t often enough convert into actual prescriptions and payments. Changing behavior—payers, providers, patients—is never easy and never overnight. But if it’s the right thing to do, eventually that behavior does change because continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is insane. If we keep talking about psychosocial, eventually it will become our industry’s “new normal.” And everyone should benefit from that.

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Until Next Week,