LISTEN For a Diagnosis

  • One thing that we’re perhaps all guilty of from time to time is not listening properly.  Often this is the root cause of many a mis-communication, but there are professions for whom their listening skills are of paramount importance.  Professions where the act of not listening properly can simply result in a poorer quality of life for those trying to communicate their concerns.

    Clearly, anyone such as myself in the “Talking Therapies” type professions need to have very sharp listening skills, but my reasons for blogging on this subject come from the article on dementia in this morning’s BBC Breakfast News.  They interviewed a lady who had become a full time carer for her husband who had sadly succumbed to dementia.  She was the first to realize that something was not quite right with her nearest and dearest and sought the assistance of their GP.

    They had gone to great lengths to outline the source of their worries.  His forgetfulness.  His changes in mood.  His angry behavior.  All things that might, in hindsight, seem to obviously indicate a case of dementia, but in this case the GP chose to focus on the mood swings and behavioral issues.  The man was referred to a psychiatrist who treated and medicated him for those issues with some success, but the root cause of these issues, the dementia, remained undiagnosed and untreated.  Only on subsequent visits to the GP did they get them to LISTEN and appropriate referral and diagnosis followed.  It took the couple 18 months to obtain this diagnosis.  A diagnosis that could have been obtained far earlier and thus opened the door to the appropriate care and services the couple required to plan their future together.

    Why didn’t the GP LISTEN to their concerns?  Why did the GP go off down a line of treatment that treated the symptoms rather than the cause of the issues?  There could be many reasons.  We have the anecdotal “6 minutes per patient” that we often hear about putting the pressure of time onto the GP.  Perhaps even the couple themselves should have found a way to press the point a bit more firmly if they felt misunderstood?  Certainly the GP should have given the lady the credit that she knew her husband the best.  After all, she lives with him on a daily basis so should notice such concerning changes in him.

    Whatever the reason for this case, we must all remain mindful that the best skill we have available to us is that of listening.  Listen, but listen without representing your own “stuff” onto what is said.  Leave judgement at the door.  In this way, those of us in professions that need to listen will find we listen almost automatically and those to whom we are listening feel much better regarded.

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