In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Modern Management of the Older Adult lead faculty Jeff Musgrave discusses how to balance infusing patient care with hope with the reality of their recovery. Take a listen or check out the full transcript with show notes on our blog (www.ptonice.com/blog) or on your favorite podcast app.
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Welcome to the PT on ICE Daily Show, my name is Jeff Musgrave, Doctor of Physical Therapy. Super excited to be here on a Geri Wednesday. Geri on ICE is what we like to call Wednesdays, all things older adults. So today’s topic is going to be all about a question I got this weekend while on a live course. So I had a student raise her hand, the reality of clinical practice here, and ask, how do we balance providing hope for our patients while still setting realistic expectations? How do we balance providing hope while setting realistic expectations? This is a reality of clinical practice for older adults when treating older adults. Lots of factors, and lots of things to dig in there. Before we get into that, if you’re looking to see us on the road in 2023, your last opportunity is on December 2nd. That will be in Candler, North Carolina. Our other December offering already sold out. So that’s your last shot in 2023 to see us on the road. Otherwise, we’re coming out strong in January, team. We’re going to be all over the map. We’re going to be in Florida, California, Missouri, Ohio, and South Carolina in 2024. So we’ll be coming in strong if you’re hoping to see us live on the road. L1, previously called Essential Foundations, the next cohort is going to be on January 10th. then advanced concepts will be on January 11th.
BALANCING PROVIDING HOPE WITH SETTING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Okay, so the question at hand is, how do we balance providing hope while still setting realistic expectations? important that we get this right. This is especially crucial for older adults. I want you to think about their history, and what their interactions are typically like in the medical system. A lot of people don’t really give them the time of day. Their visits are rushed. People are throwing $10 words like idiopathic non-diabetic peripheral neuropathy that’s what’s wrong with you all right get out of my get out of my office kind of thing but we have a lot more time with our patients in comparison to a lot of other providers in the medical system and want to really leverage that time well. So as I’ve been chewing on this question, I gave the short answer during the live course, but I’m doing this podcast to give you the long answer for those that are interested. So it’s like trying to find the narrow path, walking down a tightrope. We think about this journey with our patients from beginning to end. And the two factors that we’re trying to balance here, if you can kind of imagine someone walking across a tightrope, they usually have this big pole that they use to balance.
HOPE VS. HARD FACTS
I want you to imagine on one end of this pole, we’ve got hope and this positive outlook, Because we know as physical therapists treating older adults, there’s a lot we can do. A lot of people leave things like fitness and strength training, and power training. They have not incorporated any of those things. They need us. We can give them a lot of value. We can really do a lot of things to change their life. So we’ve got hope on this one end. And then we’ve got the hard facts. the realities of what’s coming if they don’t change, the reality of what is going to happen to them if they continue down this path. And we’re trying to balance these two factors as we’re walking with our patients down this path to recovery. So, long story short, the balancing act we’re trying to do is we want to give a crap, make it clear that we care, we want to help, and we can help, without going so far that it sounds like we’re full of crap. It’s like, yeah, that’s not possible, and exaggerate too much. But we want to be very clear that words matter. And if we go too far, too far on the hard facts, we can really shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to recovery for older adults. You know, just a quick overview of some of the research. So Rebecca Levy, a researcher out of Yale, has done a lot of really interesting studies where she’s looked at the power of positive beliefs in our belief systems, what we believe about aging, whether that’s negative or positive, and how that may change our health outcomes.
HOPE AS A POSITIVE TREATMENT FACTOR
So she has done multiple studies looking at things like recovery from injury, like people that are hospitalized, if they are able to recover fully or not and she’s found that people that are 50% more likely to recover to prior level function if they have a positive outlook on aging, talking about older adults here specifically. She did another study where she looked at people who had a predisposition for dementia if they had a positive outlook, even though they should have had an exponential increase in risk that should have led to them going on to have dementia if instead, they had a positive outlook on aging, they did not go on to get dementia as much as the rest of the cohort that all had that same predisposition. So there was an isolating factor of hope. And we think about when we have hope, we’re gonna make different choices. If we believe we’re in control and we are the ones charting our course in life versus life is happening to us. So hope is a very powerful tool. To summarize this, there’s a great quote from Dr. Justin Dunaway out of our persistent pain course. And he says beliefs and expectations are the foundations on which outcomes are built. beliefs and expectations are the foundations on which outcomes are built. I love that. There was another really interesting study that came out of Harvard in 2007 and what they did, was they had several females, it was I believe it was about 45, don’t quote me on that. It was somewhere around 45 to 50 females who had a very active job. They all worked in a hotel system where they were the people who were cleaning and turning over rooms. So they’re moving all day. and we would say that they were physically active, they weren’t getting fitness in, they weren’t hitting ACSM guidelines, they weren’t hitting Surgeon General’s guidelines for fitness and lifting heavy things and hitting high intensity like we would recommend to truly be healthy. So they split this group to figure out if half of them were told that they were meeting the Surgeon General’s guidelines and half were told they weren’t, would there be any changes to their actual health measures? So they measured things like the hip-to-waist ratio. They also measured their BMI, their blood pressure, their body fat, and their overall weight. So they told one group, hey, the work you’re doing, it hits the Surgeon General’s guidelines. You’re doing everything you need to do to be healthy. You don’t need to exercise. And they told the other half, you’re not meeting the Surgeon General’s guidelines. You really need to exercise. This is not enough for you to be healthy. And what they did is they met back in four weeks and repeated all their health measures. They found that the placebo group had physical changes. They improved their weight, they reduced their body fat, their BMI was better, their blood pressure was better, and their hip-to-waist ratio was better. The power of words was tremendous for this group. None of them changed their behaviors. They were just told by a trusted source they’re doing what they need to be doing and you should expect good things. Really incredible stuff. So we want to keep in mind providing hope is very important, especially to our older adults. They don’t typically get a message of hope and we need to provide that because we have valuable tools. There are mountains of evidence showing that resistance training can help people get stronger in the early and late stages of sarcopenia. It’s very important to provide someone with some hope. We don’t want to take that too far and be completely full of crap, right? We don’t want to tell our patients, oh yeah, you know, you can do these adductor ball squeezes, these leg kicks, and you’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be prepared and protected for what life has coming at you. We know that is not true, and we’re not suggesting that you grossly exaggerate, but we do need to give a healthy dose of hope.
CONTENDING WITH REALITY
So on the other end of the spectrum, we still have to contend with reality. What is a reality for our patients? What’s the reality of the recovery going to look like? How much time should they expect the recovery process to take? And then we need to take a really honest look at what part of the journey we’re going to be able to take them through. If you are an ICU clinician, if you’re in an acute care setting, you may only see someone once or twice. You’re going to give them hope and hopefully help them chart a path. Like, hey, this is going to go from here to home health. You need to find a good outpatient clinician. I know this great team. As soon as you’re safe to get there, you need to get there. They will get you hooked up with a gym. And if you really want to change your life and stop coming back to the hospital, you can do that. You have every ability to do that. People have done it before. I’ve seen them change their lives. If you want to be another person to do that, you’re going to have to commit for the next year. But then the decades to come are going to be way different than how your life has been the last month. Those adventures, those fun things you are planning to do, those can happen. That can be a reality for you. And that 45-second conversation could change someone’s life. It may not always be, okay? We’re not going to wear the rose-colored glasses, but your job is to plant those seeds. You still have to plant those seeds and let them know. Throw them a rope. They’re still going to have to climb out of that hole, okay? So, we’ve covered the hope piece. We’ve talked a little bit about that scaffolding, but you need to create some scaffolding with reality in mind, okay? We know that there are tissue healing timeframes. that are on a range. We need to scaffold this up, that we need to know that we can get better but it’s going to take X number of months and then inject yourself as to how far you’re going to be able to take that journey. And day one, plant the seeds for what happens after. What happens after PT, after acute care, subacute, or if you’re an outpatient clinician? What are their fitness options? You need to have these people on speed dial so you can bridge the gap, okay? And let them know. Just give them the whole story. Our older adults can handle it. They’re used to getting tons of bad news. This is probably, even with a healthy dose of reality, some of the best news they’re going to get because it’s clear you care. There’s hope. There’s a path for them. But they need to know the realities and be prepared. What’s coming ahead? So use science. Use the realities of tissue healing time frames to help them know, hey, this is how long this journey is going to take. Let’s start thinking about these transitions moving along. Team, if we give too much reality and not enough hope, we’re going to crush them. We’re going to be kicking them while they’re down. They’re already maybe at a really pivotal point in their life. We give them no hope in all reality. They’re going to quit. before it’s time to get started before the real work begins. So based on the research that I just covered, based on the realities of being a human being, I would give a healthy dose of hope, and get them started, but we gotta balance that out just like you’re walking that tightrope. You go too far either way, you’re gonna fall off the path. We’re gonna lose therapeutic alliance with our patients. They need enough hope to be ready that they’re gonna have to struggle, they’re gonna have to work hard, and it’s gonna take a while. But there is hope they can truly change, that you’ve got the skills that you can provide, you know the people to make the transitions, and I think that is what’s gonna lead to the most success for our patients, is balancing out science realities with tissue healing timeframes, knowing the person in front of you, and giving them a scale based on how much buy-in they’re gonna give you. Are they willing to come into the clinic twice a week? Do they have a plan that supports that? Do they have the financial resources to support that? Or do we need a completely different plan where they’re now motivated to do it at home and we need to spread this out and stay connected because we don’t have good resources in the area? Alright team, I wish you the best of luck with your older adults managing those two factors, balancing hope and reality to get the best outcomes possible for our patients. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Have a happy Wednesday and I will catch you next time.
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