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MAGAZINE / Mar-Apr 2008 / The Richard Cohen-Meredith Vieira Interview

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The Richard Cohen/Meredith Vieira Interview

A Portrait in Care
(Page 2 of 3)

GB: What about reaching out and talking to others outside of your immediate family?

MV:  Weíve learned to rely on friends when we need friends.  I think many caregivers donít have a fear of accepting help, but they are embarrassed.  They donít want to put people out and are reluctant to ask for help. I think itís important to ask for help when you need help; not to shy away from that.  People want to help; so when weíve needed friends in times of any kind of crisis, we ask.  And I think thatís real important for caregivers not to feel that itís all on you at any given time, because itís not. 

GB:  I agree with you that one of the biggest challenges we have as family caregivers is to reach out and to ask. People want to help. 

MV: Exactly, people want to help.  I agree a hundred percent. 

GB: Richard, youíve coined some really great phrases regarding an area that we find challenges our readers as well.  Iíll give you a few of them: communication copout, physician-assisted denial and keystone docs.  How do we better communicate with our doctors? 

RC: I think that doctors need to recalibrate how they operate.  And patients need to insist to their doctors that they be seen in a human way and treated in a human way. I wrote that too often we are seen as cases and not people.  We are collections of symptoms and not human beings. 

GB:  What advice can you give a caregiver or someone living with chronic illness about how to improve their communication with their doctors? 

RC:   I think that we shop for consumer items with more care than we shop for doctors and I donít think any of us should hesitate to say to a physician, who is such an ongoing important part of our lives, that this isnít working.  I think that people give doctors too much power.  I laugh when I hear the phrase ďdoctorís ordersĒ because I donít think of anything a doctor says to me as an order; I think of it as a suggestion.  I think we have to take more responsibility for our own relationships with doctors.  I think people are very passive and I think the days of putting doctors on pedestals, hopefully, is coming to an end. 

GB:  So partner with your doctor, donít fear them. 

MV:  I think that a caregiver has to ultimately be the advocate for the person with the illness and that means being their ears.  It wasnít the MS, it was with colon cancer when at the end of the doctorís appointment, it was clear that Richard had missed so much of it.  Because he was hearing it, but it wasnít sinking in.  I think itís fair enough for the caregiver to be there with the pencil and the paper and asking the questions because when youíre the one with the illness, itís so overwhelming sometimes that you donít hear whatís being said to you. 

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