Taking a family-centred approach
My company prides itself on being a truly family business, but these days that means more than a company where the owner and some of the team are from the same family. It also means more than treating our patients as if they were family – although we will always try to do that.
What we practice is known as family-centred care, a strategy well-known and used by other healthcare professionals. We do this because we know that the family plays a central role in the health of people who are troubled with hearing loss.
It isn’t just fanciful thinking either. Studies have shown the numerous advantages of this approach, primarily because family-centred care is based on the recognition that hearing loss does not only affect those who have it, but also those around them. As a result, we seek to involve the family closely in the care process.
Our own experience also tells us that the patient and his or her family don’t always have the same perception about their hearing loss and its importance. When we take this into account and apply a few recommendations in the discussions, all those involved can benefit.
So family-centred care is why we see the patient and those closest to them as partners on equal terms as we assess, plan and prescribe hearing solutions. It is why we positively encourage everyone to bring their spouse, close relative or friend to the first consultation, why at the start of the appointment we explain that the opinions of the hearing aid wearer and of the family are needed, and why we begin the process by ensuring the patient and their family perceive the situation in the same way and are both open to help from our audiologist. We have the same goal – to improve hearing and gain a better quality of life.
We may talk about the changes in lifestyle, constraints in joint activities and communication difficulties, but also an emotional burden related to the hearing loss of others. These negative psychosocial consequences also affect the perception of hearing loss by the family and what they expect from hearing solutions.
As our regular patients will already understand, fitting hearing aids is only the start of the process of resolving hearing difficulties; it marks the beginning of a period of rehabilitation where the patient becomes accustomed to the new sounds they are able to hear and, sometimes, acceptance that their hearing aids are just one of the tools which will allow them to communicate better in the coming days, weeks and months.
If key family members have been involved in the process from the start, they will have understood that they need to be part of this rehabilitation, maybe even changing the way they communicate to make it easier for their loved one to understand.
But most of all they should be a source of encouragement to help the user achieve the best from the new lifestyle opportunities better hearing presents.