Mother’s Day is a chance for many of us to take a moment to reflect on the impact that our moms have had in our lives. They brought us into this world and juggled many roles for us as we grew up: chef, chauffeur, coach, therapist, teacher, and more. And of course, it’s often said that moms are also the “Chief Health Care Officer” of the home.
We’ve gathered perspectives from three moms who also happen to be professionally involved in health care. We asked them how their role as a mother has influenced their approach when it comes to working to improve health and health care, and what the health care system can stand to learn from the experience and wisdom that comes with being a mom.
Meet Patients Where They Are
Amy Gleason: Nurse, Tech Entrepreneur, Volunteer, and Mom (@ThePatientsSide)
As a nurse first, I always knew there were challenges in health care, but as a mom I realized just how challenging they actually are. I never truly understood how overwhelming and frightening it is to worry 24 hours a day, wonder if you are getting the right treatment, compare differing medical opinions, keep specialists on the same page, have family members help when they are not comfortable or knowledgeable. Of course, there is work, school, marriage, other kids, friends, family, and other normal life things that are happening on top of all of that. It has really taught me that more help is needed to guide people through these experiences.
We need to meet patients where they are from a literacy, technology, social constraints, readiness to change, and values perspective. I have also learned that moms have to take care of ourselves too. We are usually the last to get our health needs met because we are simply so busy taking care of others, so caregivers need help too. Finally, I think a lot can be learned from moms about access, how to deliver the right information at the right time in the right way, and how to collaborate as a team.
My kids want everything available electronically, and health care is so different than the worlds they live in. To engage this generation, we have to think differently. As a mom, I sometimes just want to speak to a person without pressing 3, 5, 8, 10 and holding for 20 minutes, and sometimes sending a message is not the most effective.
“To engage patients, we need to give what is needed at the time and in the method desired by the patient.”
Also, if you can tell me something is normal in a message or have a quick phone call, please don’t make me bring my immunocompromised child across town to sit in a germs office!
I have met so many amazing moms during our journey. A mom named Shari Hume cofounded a nonprofit called the Cure JM Foundation. Because of this and the other moms who joined after her, I was connected with other Moms who had kids with Juvenile Myositis the VERY day Morgan was diagnosed! They shared real life practical information that we could apply that day because they had lived with the disease. It wasn’t so much about the medical condition at that point- it was about life, survival, and having hope. Since then, I have learned so much from this group, and the Cure JM Foundation has funded research that has led to better outcomes and treatment for Morgan and other kids like her. Moms rock!
We Live in a Sick Care System
Jennifer Giustra-Kozek, Psychotherapist, Author, and Mom (@ADHDNoHarmMeds)
I began my quest to help my children with autism, ADHD, anxiety and sleep issues by going to pediatric specialists, our pediatrician, and other allopathic physicians. Then I started doing my own research by reading tons of books and countless medical articles and studies from esteemed medical journals.
What I learned: Our doctors weren’t reading the same medical journals I was. I was dismayed to see how many doctors only look through the lens of a single organ, rather than how organ systems relate to one another. There were no conversations about nutrition, let alone alternative treatments that have been used in other countries for centuries.
It seems modern medicine has two tools in the toolbox: meds and surgery. We live in a sick care system that has little regard for how people get sick in the first place. As a caregiver, I have learned through the process of trying to heal my children, that health care truly operates as an industry – just like the food industry or the pharma industry, where it can feel like people aren’t much more than a means to an end.
As a mom, I am here to make a stand. And I ask that we all wake up and make a stand for real change. It’s about time we take back ownership of our health care from big industry and put it back into the hands of people and families. We can no longer put a price tag on our mental and physical health. The amount of pain we are creating for our children and ourselves is a high price to pay for the way we conduct our business.
Jennifer Giustra-Kozek, LPC, NCC is a board certified licensed psychotherapist and author of “Healing without Hurting: Treating ADHD, Apraxia and Autism Spectrum Disorders Naturally and Effectively without Harmful Medication”
Madiha M. Saeed, Physician, Holistic Practitioner, Author, and Mom (@HolisticMomMD)
In terms of health, I talk the talk and walk the walk, and so does my family. I only preach what I can accomplish with my children and involve them in everything I do. We know exactly what happens to the food we eat and how we need to keep the pets in our belly healthy. Education is power and can change and improve all lives and health from the inside and out.
As a physician, I believe that more doctors and health care systems could stand to learn about optimal lifestyle techniques from the cradle onwards. Lifestyle changes are the most powerful way to optimize health and prevent disease. And especially as a mom, I feel that healthy children are a blessing and our job is to take care of them the best way we can to optimize health and healing.
Madiha M. Saeed, MD, ABIHM is a board-certified integrative holistic family physician and author of “The Holistic Rx: Your Guide to Healing Chronic Inflammation and Disease”
Join us at the inaugural “What’s the Fix” conference this June. It’s not your standard conference – it’s an event designed to highlight stories of patients improving care for themselves and their loved ones. Virtual attendance is free – more information’s available here.