2014 Albuquerque Geriatric Healthcare Symposium: Paradigms Shift Towards Narrative Medicine

In reference to the 2014 Albuquerque Geriatric Healthcare Symposium, traditional methods of treating the elderly should take a turn from “one-sided physician prescription” to further engaging the patients by taking into account their individual stories about their sickness.

Emphasis On The Personal Narrative Of The Elderly

Whenever physicians converse with their patients, they often ask, “What have you eaten in the past 24 hours?”, “Have you felt nauseous in the past couple of hours?” These objective questions focus on the pathology itself and most often shape the answer. The method may as well be practical and suitable for short-term treatments, but with the elderly who need constant medical care due to deteriorating health, the low regard for personal experiences may be alienating in some level.

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According to Dr. Susan McDonald, storytelling has a powerful effect on treatments because it makes the patient participate in the healing process. In Dr. McDonald’s involvement as a hospice social worker in an elderly home, most patients often share that they feel they are a burden to their families because of their sickness. This observation reveals concerns that may have strong implications for the patients. Negative emotions such as this may lead to psychosomatic illness or worsen the illness of the elderly. By being aware of these issues, medical practitioners may have a starting point to treat the patient effectively. The process is called narrative medicine.

Holistic Approach To Physical And Mental Wellness

In the late 1980s, the movement of narrative medicine began with a book by Kleinman about stories on suffering and healing. This campaign shifts the focus to the patients’ experience about their sickness and how it made an impact on their lives. Patients talk about the effect of the disease on their relationships and personal life and how are they are coping.

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According to studies, frequent conversations among the elderly lower the chances of them feeling lonely and depressed. Also, as they interact with other senior citizens in the family and talk about events of the past, it is as if they have regained the strength of their youth.

The symposium showed the importance of integrating narrative medicine to geriatric health care. With this, we hope medical professionals provide assistance that caters to both the physical and mental well-being of the elderly.