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Rethinking the healing process

on September 30, 2013
Music guitar

Music guitar (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Having spent the later part of the month of September in the hospital with my mother, I have come to the conclusion that the healing process can be enhanced with a few changes. Many things have changed over the years. Many hospitals have become art galleries. I have enjoyed the beautiful works filling the hallways and the various sculptures in the nooks and crannies. It is a positive pleasure to see such when a life is hanging on by the thread.

What I noticed was the lack of other positive sensory stimulation directed towards the patients. One night Mom could not get comfortable. The pain medications did not seem to work. Nothing could comfort her. I happened to have my Kindle which is loaded with a variety of calming music. I chose a Native Indian flute CD with nature sounds. I led her through a very short visualization. Had her close her eyes and listen to the music to help her envision a peaceful place. It wasn’t long before she drifted off to dreamland. The nurses and techs came by to comment on the peaceful music. Such an easy technique which works more often than not. With such a wide variety on the market I am certain there would be something to appeal to any and every patient. It also drowns out the beeps and whirls of the support systems. It drowns out the moans and other vocal noises of others which acts as a reminder to other patients of the pain and discomfort.

During my 8 night stay, I noticed my mother would ask for more pain medications when she could hear others in pain. She also would ask for pain medications when she got bored. Don’t get me wrong, she had some major surgeries which result in some ongoing pain but there were some patterns. She had a difficult time at night sleeping due to knowing the floor was short-staffed. She feared something would happen and no one would respond. Adding the calming sounds and tunes, she seemed to relax more with less fears.

In discussions with the nursing staff, people who have been in ICU for long periods of time have time awareness problems. Mom also had this confusion once she was moved to a step down unit. Of course rooms have information boards but the black and white set up is often confusing for patients who are on heavy medications. Every hour for several days Mom would ask me what day it was and what was important for that day. Knowing I was to leave her for a few days I was concerned how her constant need to know would affect the understaffed nurses. Being a believer in the Right Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee, I quickly drew out a creative calendar with visual cues in the drawings. Mom was missing certain activities because of the confusion. When Friday came around the date had a little football as the tittle, or the dot in the lowercase letter “I.”  Mom remembered to watch her beloved football games on TV that evening as well as stayed up to listen to the high school team scores on the news. These are things which make her happy thus keeping her focused on positive things not the pain. Each day a little icon represented  something she looked forward to on that particular day. So far it has been a big hit and helped her get her concept of time back without bugging the staff or causing great frustrations trying to figure it out on her own.

Maybe with a bit of expressive arts interventions recovery time could be enhanced. Reducing the need for pain medications is a big plus. Reducing mental and emotional anxiety makes for a peaceful floor for the nursing and tech staff. Do not wait on the hospital to carry out such, take the initiative to explore options trying different ones to see what works. You cannot take the pain and hurt away but you can take the attention away from it reducing frustrations.

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One response to “Rethinking the healing process

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