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Ensuring Patients and Families Understand Medical Instructions

Michelle Tristani, MS, CCC-SLP

September 23, 2016

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Question

How can I help ensure a patient and his or her family understand medical instructions? 

Answer

Sometimes, when instructing patients and their familes on a specific item that includes multiple steps, we first want to do a quick informal assessment regarding their cognitive status. Even if the person we are training is a family member and we are not treating or evaluating them formally, we need to determine their ability to understand the instructions. Are the instructions too complex for that individual? Is the individual someone who has the background to be able to follow through on our instructions?

It is difficult to know the personal background of family members, but the more you know, the more you can tailor the training. Sometimes simply writing down the steps for our patients and families can help. Using pictures can help. Repetition helps.  Ask the patient and/or family member if they have any questions or ask if they need assistance from another family member. These suggestions are some possible ways to ensure a patient and their family understand our instructions. 

Michelle Tristani, M.S CCC-SLP, has provided speech pathology services for 24 years across adult and geriatric settings from acute care to skilled nursing to out-patient. Michelle specializes in progressive neurological diagnoses, specifically, Alzheimer’s and related dementias.  She has delivered a wide scope of trainings including, yet not limited to, cognitive disorders, dysphagia in persons with dementia, medical errors and ethics, management of the pulmonary, medically complex and palliative care patient populations. 


michelle tristani

Michelle Tristani, MS, CCC-SLP

Michelle Tristani, M.S CCC-SLP, has provided speech pathology services for 24 years across adult and geriatric settings from acute care to skilled nursing to out-patient. Michelle specializes in progressive neurological diagnoses, specifically, Alzheimer’s and related dementias.  She has delivered a wide scope of trainings including, yet not limited to, cognitive disorders, dysphagia in persons with dementia, medical errors and ethics, management of the pulmonary, medically complex and palliative care patient populations.  Michelle is currently a clinical specialist with Kindred Healthcare, is a speech-language pathologist at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, and is also an Alzheimer’s Association Helpline Counselor.


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