"DROWNING" PHOTO ESSAY
Photos taken with Nikon Coolpix P520 and edited with Photoshop CS. August 2016.
These photographs are part of a photo essay Heather created reflecting the difficulties of taking a multitude of medications to manage her chronic illnesses. The collection of images seeks to convey the emotional impact of taking so many medications as a young person by showing Heather in a stereotypically feminine pose in a bathtub with her hair and makeup done (making her appear visibly "well") while the bathtub is filled with empty pill bottles collected by Heather over the past few years. She hopes to show the overwhelming nature of the volume of medication she must consume in order to survive, and initiate discussions about quality of life for chronic illness patients regardless of how well and happy they may visibly appear on the outside. Heather particularly hopes that healthcare providers can better consider and discuss with their patients the overall impact of the number of medications being prescribed, the difficulties patients may have managing complex medication regimes, and the impact that managing so many medications (many with conflicting instructions and serious side effects) on patients' quality of life.
Heather is particularly struck by how difficult it is for her in her position of relative privilege (English is her first language, she is well-educated in her conditions, she does not have responsibility to care for children or others, she has a caretaker to assist her and she is not currently working) to manage her overwhelming medication regime. Given her own challenges, she often thinks about how difficult or impossible managing a complicated medication regime must be for patients who do not speak English well, are not well-educated about their conditions, do not have anyone to assist them, who are responsible for caring for children or others, and/or who are consumed by work and other obligations in addition to managing the day to day realities of their illnesses.
She hopes to initiate discussion about steps that can be taken by healthcare providers to help patients better manage their complex chronic conditions requiring complicated medication regimes. While ultimately systemic changes and programs to assist patients would have the biggest impact, improvements can begin if healthcare providers initiate conversations about how well patients understand their medication regime, whether they are having difficulties following it, if they are experiencing side effects severe enough to cause occasional or frequent "non-compliance," how many medications other specialists may be prescribing (including whether those have side effects, and whether the instructions on when and how to take those medications conflicts with other medications they are taking) and whether they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed by their medication regime. Hopefully having these conversations will allow providers to identify patients who are struggling and provide suggestions or assistance, and ultimately, greatly improve patients' quality of life.