Making Health Connections: Family-Centered Care

The new wave in medicine is family-centered care. The journal “Dimensions of Critical-Care Nursing” just published an article titled, “Goal of the Day: Initiating Goal of the Day to Improve Patient- and Family-Centered Care.” But just what is family-centered care, and who are the family members? Is it the classic family unit, or is it much more?

It has been well documented that, with ailing patients, human or animal connections improve health.

In women diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, simply meeting regularly with other women in a similar disease-state improved outcomes.

Talking and connecting with other women resulted in a doubling of life expectancy – a result that could not be achieved by any known medical intervention.

Walkers of dogs have less incidence of heart disease and are more adept at surviving heart attacks. Even observation of animal behavior can achieve dramatic results in treating and potentially curing some forms of autism and Asperger syndrome. This phenomenon was illustrated by anthropologist Dawn Prince-Hughes, M.A., Ph.D., in her book “Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey through Autism.” The book chronicles her journey from social isolation and homelessness as an Asperger sufferer to her emergence as a world-renowned researcher. Prince-Hughes attributes her dramatic personal transformation to her early experiences observing and interacting with gorillas at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Wash., where she was employed as a young adult.

While some of her subsequent conclusions concerning primate behavior are inevitably controversial, the researcher’s life story is itself an important demonstration of one kind of transformative health connection.