“Don’t forget about the caregiver. I have seen too many caregivers feel overwhelmed and burned out. A healthy caregiver means a healthy patient. We need to do a better job of reaching out to the caregivers and making sure they have what they need and are taking care of themselves as well.”
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Kelsey Brenner, DC, DACNB of South Florida Integrative Health.
My twin sister, Erin, has cerebral palsy. I grew up watching her meet with different doctors and therapists, trying many different types of treatments. Because of this, I developed an interest in the brain and healthcare from a very young age. I also grew up playing soccer. Over my many years of playing I sustained several concussions. I know from personal experience the effects a concussion can have and how disrupting it can be to one’s life. When I went to grad school I met a world renowned doctor who specialized in treating brain injuries and other neurological conditions. His detailed approach to each patient and the types of therapies he was doing fit so well with what I had always felt was needed in healthcare. From then on this became my specialty and passion.
Through my own injuries and through watching my sister’s journey, I was exposed to a variety of practitioners and treatments. This exposure helped me develop a vision for who I wanted to be as a doctor and what I wanted to offer. Because of my experience, I always approach everything in our practice from the viewpoint of the patient and their family, making sure they are comfortable and taken care of.
1. The patient sitting in front of you is someone’s daughter, father, wife, teacher, coach. They aren’t just an ID number on a chart. They are honoring you by asking for your help. No matter what age they are, no matter what cognitive abilities they have, look them in the eye and speak to them with respect.
2. Listen. Listen. Listen. Our initial intake process is 2.5 hours. We run tests, perform physical exams, etc., but we also sit down and listen to our patient’s stories. Many of these patients have been through some tough life changing experiences. Part of the healing process is being heard. Many times you will also pick up on some key details which will help you in your treatment process.
3. See the whole picture. Our bodies are interlinking systems that all work together and rely on one another. You cannot separate them. Ask about the patient’s diet, physical activity, stressors, support system at home, etc. These all play a role in the patient’s health.
4. Educate your patients. The more a patient understands about their condition the better equipped they will be to make educated lifestyle decisions to promote healing.
5. Don’t forget about the caregiver. I have seen too many caregivers feel overwhelmed and burned out. A healthy caregiver means a healthy patient. We need to do a better job of reaching out to the caregivers and making sure they have what they need and are taking care of themselves as well.
I think transparency is very important. There are disorders which can be objective and subjective in medicine. For example, if you break a bone, have a heart attack, have a tumor or stroke, these are things that can be seen clinically or on imaging very easily and there is very little confusion how to diagnose or treat these conditions. However conditions such as mood disorders, post-concussion syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome can be much more subjective. When disorders become more subjective, patients often have a harder time finding the right clinician or treatment. Having transparency and outlets for patients to share their stories creates comfort, education, and resources for these patients. Medicine is always evolving and trying to get better. We cannot assume we have all the answers. Being transparent allows collaboration and forces us to do better.
“You never know what someone is going through. Be kind. Always”
I have always loved this quote, but it definitely became more relevant when I started treating patients. Every day I sit down and hear people’s stories. I hear about how they are worried about their son because he is having trouble communicating with them or not able to socialize with other children. I hear about how they are struggling with loud noises and bright lights after their concussion and have to take a semester off from college. I take these stories with me when I leave the office. Maybe a mom cuts in front of me at the grocery store. I could get mad or I could stop and wonder if maybe she has a son who is having trouble communicating and she is worried about him. Or I could be driving and someone is going really slow in front of me. I could honk and get annoyed or I could let it go because maybe that person was in a really bad car accident before, had a concussion, and is now a little nervous to drive again. We really never know what someone else is going through.
I love teaching about the brain. I think if we understood how our own brain works, how it impacts our behaviors and relationships, and how it truly creates our reality, we would approach life a little differently. I believe we would have more empathy for others, we would make better decisions about what we eat, how we move, and how we interact with our environment and other people. We would raise children knowing the impact we are having on their developing brains and how this will create who they are now and in the future. I would love to educate more people on the impact their own brains have on their lives and what they can do to promote better brain health.
Originally published at medium.com