The Disabled Patient

Disabled patients may come to the hospital with great apprehension and mistrust. They are usually familiar with the shortcomings of hospitals because they have probably been hospitalized for painful tests or surgery. They may be burdened with an inferiority complex and may feel unattractive. The interviewer must take all this into consideration and assure patients that everything will be done to make them comfortable. The interviewer must sort out the emotional problems of disabled persons from the physical ones that brought them to the hospital. A friendly smile or a few kind words can encourage these patients to cooperate, thereby securing a better doctor-patient relationship.

Many disabled people have developed their own routines that work for them. They often do not want medical personnel to impose their way of doing something if the patient's way works.

Patients with a hearing impairment need to be treated differently from other disabled patients. Sit directly in front of these patients to allow them to benefit from lip reading. Make sure that the lighting in the room is correct so that your face is well illuminated. It is important to speak slowly with appropriate gestures and expressions to punctuate the question. Ask these patients whether it is necessary for you to speak louder. If a patient wears a hearing aid, speaking louder may not be necessary. If all else fails, the use of written questions can be helpful.

Another special type of disabled patient is the visually impaired patient. Because the patient with limited or no vision has no reference for you in the room, it is useful for you to occasionally touch the patient on the arm or shoulder. This can be done instead of the more standard nonverbal facilitations, which are of no value in this patient.

The severely mentally retarded patient must be accompanied by a family member or guardian to provide a proper history.

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