A great way to get patients thinking about self care in a constructive way, the Six Self Care Questions can be used at any stage in your work with them around managing their pain. They will be particularly useful in introducing the idea of self care to a patient who has hitherto imagined that their health and wellbeing is in the hands of others.
1) What’s important for me?
2) What’s important for my health?
3) What can I do to help myself? (How does it affect me? What can I change myself?)
4) What skills do I need to keep well? (Do I have the information / knowledge about my condition?)
5) What ongoing support do I need? (Who else could be involved with me to help?)
6) Do I know what to do if I get stuck?
Introducing the idea of self care can be daunting for a patient. They may feel it is either beyond them, or even that it is somehow about withdrawing a valued source of healthcare support.
The Six Questions can help allay both these concerns. Introduce the questions as a discrete exercise that you will use together to uncover a little of how the patient thinks and feels about what they need.
Asking the questions – and reflecting back a summary of your patient’s repsonses – provides an opportunity for the clinician to demonstrate their commitment to helping the patient develop the knowledge, skills and resources they’ll need to make self care a reality. Far from meaning less care from others, it reframes self care in a more reassuring way, as a skillset that can emerge from the support they are receiving from you, rather than as an alternative to it.
Insights from the exercise can also lead directly on to the idea of how to get from “where I am now” to “where I want to be” – action planning.
The Six Self Care Questions are also available to print out and give to your patient. This should only be done in conjunction with your direct work with them around the subject of self care, as an aide memoire, and not as a substitute for the therapeutic conversation.