When you go to a doctor’s appointment, do you tell the truth, even when it’s difficult? It’s easy to tell the truth about your pain level or the illness that brought you to the doctor’s office in the first place. But what happens when the doctors asks if you are eating the low-fat diet that was recommended, or if you are taking your medications properly? In the doctor’s office, little white lies can adversely impact your health. Shading the truth can actually obstruct proper diagnosis and treatment. When you go to the doctor, it’s best to tell the truth and the whole truth, no matter how painful or embarrassing it may be.
The challenge for physicians is that the American population is aging, increasing expensive illnesses and chronic disease. They don’t ask patient about lifestyle factors out of some prurient interest, rather, they are asking because lifestyle factors are at the root of most chronic disease. In fact, sixty-nine percent of the diseases that contribute to the majority of US healthcare costs are “heavily influenced by consumer behaviors”. Thirty-one percent are directly attributed to consumer behaviors. In other words, if consumer behaviors improved, it could reduce the percentage of chronic disease in the United States.
It’s not just an American problem. The majority of deaths worldwide are due to four diseases:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Respiratory diseases
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) the increasingly high burden of these four diseases is due to four lifestyle behaviors:
- Smoking tobacco
- Consumption of alcohol
- Eating highly processed foods
- Physical inactivity
When a doctor asks if a patient has stopped smoking or is eating more fruits and vegetables it is because he or she knows that it can improve health.
People don’t tell doctors the truth and they know it
Patients who can’t bring themselves to tell the doctor 100 percent of the truth are not alone. Newsweek reported that of 1,500 people surveyed, 13 percent said they lied to their doctors. Thirty-two percent classified it as only“stretching the truth”. The things they said they lied about included:
- 38 percent: following doctor’s orders
- 32 percent: diet and exercise compliance
- 22 percent: smoking
- 16 percent: intake of alcohol
Doctors realize that patients don’t always tell the truth – test results prove it. For example, a patient who says he or she is watching sugar intake may have high cholesterol or diabetic sugar levels that are off the chart. The patient’s “truth” and the lab results don’t add up.
Nurses know this to be true as well. In fact, if a patient says they have two to three glasses of wine per week, they fully realize that may mean two to three glasses a day. It’s the type of insight that comes from years of experience working with people. The problem is that when a patient isn’t truthful about alcohol consumption, it can lead to dangerous drug interactions and unnecessary tests to determine why lab tests are showing kidney problems.
Telling the doctor incomplete truths about medication compliance is especially troublesome. The doctor needs to know if a certain regimen is working. Lab tests only tell part of the picture. If a patient says he or she is taking the medication but is not, it can appear that the medication isn’t working. This may cause the physician to change the medication or the dose. In reality, if the patient was fully compliant with the medication plan, it might work well. On the other hand, if the patient has stopped taking the medication because of unwanted side effects, the physician needs to know that as well.
One physician said, “ Unfortunately, patients sometimes lie and mask certain troubling side effects out of fear that I may discontinue that particular treatment. Or, older patients feel I won’t pay attention to them unless they exaggerate their symptoms.”
The truth of the matter is that the doctor just wants to know the truth about medication compliance, side effects and improvements in health so they can find the right drugs that will effectively treat the condition.
Physicians want to improve the health and well-being of their patients, but it’s a team effort. The physician needs to know what the patient is doing when they are not in the office in order to effectively treat them and improve their health. When you or a loved one go to the physician, answer his or her questions truthfully. It may be uncomfortable, but it will result in better health in the long run.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
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