When someone gets injured or unwell one of the most important things to do is act as soon as possible. It’s an obvious thing do to, but for a bunch of reasons it doesn’t always happen (or doesn’t happen comprehensively) in practice. However, when done, the health and cost-saving outcomes are significant.
The diagram below is a very simple way of illustrating the need for early intervention (no, it wasn’t done by my 5-year-old nephew; I did it on my iPad. Plus I’m much better at drawing than he is).
Here’s a typical story that this diagram sums up:
1. Jon injures his back
2. He takes time off work. He also stops exercising and no longer really does stuff around the house because he’s in a bit of pain. He also stops seeing his friends as often
3. After a number of weeks there are some changes in Jon:
- He starts developing a mild depression. He feels alone and he doesn’t do anything with his days, so he doesn’t have the best view of himself
- He’s fighting with his wife much more than he used to
- He’s putting on weight and his fitness and strength are declining
4. This becomes the norm for Jon. His life is now much different than it was:
- He’s obese and has early type 2 diabetes
- He and his wife have divorced
- He’s in pain most of the time
- He’s clinically depressed
- He never sees his family or friends
Not good. Not good at all. However, this outcome is often avoidable:
An important way to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome is to intervene as early as possible. This means instituting effective treatment for the injury, and as much as possible encouraging the individual to be active in all areas of their life – keep them in their job or at least in the workplace, ensure they are physically active, and encourage healthy levels of social interaction.
Naturally all the levels to which these are encouraged must be dictated by the individual’s impairment, so as usual it’s about individualising your approach while adhering to the fundamentals. But odds are, if you intervene early and comprehensively, everyone involved will benefit.