Doctors’ insensitivity toward patients is a big subject in recent years. This isn’t just a moral problem but a health-related one as in a lot of cases patients report not receiving adequate treatments or sufficient advice from their doctors. That’s why it’s refreshing to see an Alzheimer’s patient teach doctors about patience in a lecture in Toronto.
Ron Robert is an 82-year-old man that was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago. Yet, recently, he was in a classroom in front of first-year and second-year medical students sharing his story. He isn’t just a visiting lecturer either – he is an undergraduate student even though he’s burdened with this damaging disease. When talking about his lecture, Ron explains that he wants future doctors to truly understand what it’s like to live with such a condition.
“I want them to be more patient, to give them advice on how to live with Alzheimer’s,” Ron told CTV News (1).
Robert used to be a reporter and even worked with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau before receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Ron still remembers getting a phone call from his doctor very clearly.
“He said, ‘I have some bad news, Ron. You’ve got Alzheimer’s and you’ve lost your driver’s license. See you sometime in the next while.'”
The doctor’s bluntness had left Ron quite stunned but this isn’t a unique experience to him – there are over half a million Canadians diagnosed with either dementia or Alzheimer’s and that number is estimated to grow to over a million in the next 15 years. And a lot of them are treated in a very similar fashion to Robert.
“The biggest problem (is) they don’t see Alzheimer’s as something important as a medical profession. It’s just one of those nuisance things – get rid of it,” Ron says.
Instead of giving up, however, Ron decided to enroll in school and he started going to the Kings University College in Ontario. There, Ron is taking classes in disability studies and political science. In doing so, Ron is hoping that he will manage to slow down the progress of his condition. He has also become an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, which has given him even more knowledge about the disease that he can share with others.
“You have no idea how much of an effect you have,” he told the students he was giving a lecture to. “When you’re dealing with this kind of thing as doctors, two key words are kindness and patience.”
And his story and lecture seem to have had an effect on a lot of our future doctors.
“The biggest message I got from his talk was to be kind and patient with everybody who I see in my practice … it sounds cheesy, but it’s really the truth,” one student shared.
It may definitely seem like a somewhat cheesy message. However, making sure that our medical professionals don’t treat their patients as simple cases on a board but as human beings is literally vital for the well-being of millions of people.