Keeping Patients Involved and Interested in Their Own Care

Do you have patients who do not participate in their own care? How do you manage? Do you find it difficult to achieve daily goals?

If you have an unmotivated or defiant patient, you’ll likely encounter numerous challenges. Why? Because lack of interest to improve one’s health creates gaps in the continuity of care. Like potholes on the road to recovery, it will lead to a bumpy healthcare ride.

Such as the case of Eli, a 68-year old retired teacher with various chronic conditions.

Eli is undergoing mental health checks. His wife died recently. Other caregivers observed that he has been keeping to himself lately. Eli doesn’t follow his diet regimens to control his high blood sugar and hypertension. Eli is independent physically but he refuses to bathe and perform oral care. He skips his morning walks, too. In just two weeks, Eli lost some weight and had a host of other worsening symptoms.

Eli is an example of an indifferent patient and he needs help. Caregivers like you can make a difference in achieving care goals by keeping patients involved and interested in their plan of care.

Here's how to motivate patients such as Eli:

1. Be motivated yourself.

Yes, the process starts with you. You wouldn’t be able to encourage others if you yourself look defeated. A cheerful disposition and a positive attitude from you shows that there is something worthwhile to look forward to. Be sincere in your communication.

2. Perform activities with the patient instead of expecting them to finish a task.

Invite the patient to an activity instead of telling them what to do next. Say, “Let’s give you a bath” rather than “Go and take a bath.” With this technique, you are indirectly telling them that they are part of the team and that teamwork is essential. There is a better chance of patients participating in their care this way.

3. Encourage verbalization.

Ask for the patient's feedback. Know the “whys” – the reason why they don’t feel like participating and why they are refusing treatments.

When patients open up to you, you gain a better understanding of how you can support them. The patient will also feel more comfortable. You can establish trust and a meaningful connection. You can also pick up potential problems, which you can relay to the healthcare team.

4. Provide them with tools to stay informed and independent.

Patients may be hesitant to do things on their own because they are not sure if they can or if their action would be beneficial. Sometimes, the reason is just a lack of confidence in making decisions.

As a caregiver, you can provide the patient with brochures to help them understand their condition. Most agencies will have pamphlets and leaflets about common health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and infection control. Ask your supervisor or nurse for help if you are unsure which information is helpful.

Another way of improving motivation in a disinterested patient is by providing them tools to be independent. Ensure that they have their eyeglasses and walkers within reach. If the patient has hearing devices, check if they have them on.

5. Recognize small accomplishments.

Keeping the patient continually interested in what's going on in their care is a tough job indeed. If you notice even a tiny improvement on their part, acknowledge their efforts. Say, "I see that you combed your hair neatly today."

After recognizing little successes, introduce another activity where they can take part, too. Say, "How about we change into some comfortable clothes, too? Here, let me help you.” This way, you lead them to the decision of self-care, and you encouraged them to continue doing so.

6. Show respect.

Patients are reluctant to cooperate because other caregivers may be ignoring or judging them repeatedly. They feel insignificant and disrespected. Although some will openly talk about their situation, there might be a few who would rather just do nothing. Worse, they choose to defy their care providers.

Patients' lack of motivation to get involved in their own care is a big hurdle to achieving care goals. It attracts more problems along the way, but caregivers are in the position to help bridge the gaps in healthcare delivery.