By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
They used to be called “old wive’s tales” and were passed from generation to generation of mothers and grandmothers. Most home remedies have historically been fairly harmless, usually involving an assortment of items from the pantry and quite often the liquor cabinet. They have been passed from mom to mom because anyone with kids knows that a mother would do anything to stop her child’s suffering. However, when the home-based remedy is no remedy at all and even can cause potential harm, it is the role of the healthcare provider to step in as patient advocate.
A recent article in Slate magazine described how some parents of children with autism are traveling well beyond the borders of traditional medicine, desperately seeking a better prognosis for their child. The article author reports how parents of children with autism will often try up to 7 different treatment interventions at the same time, in hopes that one will be the magic cure (or at least a method of slowing down the debilitating disease). The types of interventions include various medicines, vitamins, home brands of physical therapy and even “special eyeglasses.” How many of those interventions do you think are performed under the supervision of their regular healthcare professional?
Traveling physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech language pathologists are extremely familiar with the rehabilitation therapy required by children with autism and its associated spectrum of disorders. Rehab therapists work directly with the autistic child and consult with the parents more than most other members of the healthcare team. This level of trust and rapport provides the therapist with an excellent opportunity to find out what other interventions the family is currently using, ask their opinion on alternative therapies and educate the child’s parents as needed about any potential dangers of remedies being tried. This is just as true for the travel therapist working just as closely with patients and families during travel therapy assignments.
As medical conditions and their mainstream treatments become increasingly complex with a wide variety of side effects and possible interactions, it is only natural for patients and their families to research more comfortable alternatives. It is the role of the rehab therapist (and the rest of the healthcare team) to ensure that patients and their families are well-informed of the risks and benefits of all interventions being tried.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.