Ask questions about inpatient mental health care before committing a relative

This is the fourth in a six-part series that explores challenges people face when they seek treatment for mental health issues. The final two articles in the series explore reasons for problems with care and how to help yourself and loved ones get care that works.

What happens if your doctor doesn't listen to what's important to you?

Guadalupe, age 64, was 5'2" tall and weighed 145 pounds. She fussed over her weight as she drove to the doctor's office. She sighed, knowing that he would tell her to lose weight. "I can do this," she said to herself. "Maybe WeightWatchers - it worked for me once before."

She had struggled with her weight for decades. But now, it was really interfering with her life. If she got down on the floor with her grandchildren, she had trouble getting up because of the pain in her knees - which she didn't have when she weighed 10-15 pounds less.

Does your doctor take your priorities seriously?

When Heather was 35, she married a man she'd been dating for four years who already had three children. From very early on in their relationship, they had discussed whether they wanted more children, and consistently agreed that the three he already had were enough. Unless Heather accidentally got pregnant, they would not be having any more.

Two years after they married, the results of a routine Pap smear revealed that Heather had abnormal cells in her cervix that could become cancerous.

What could John Madden teach us about health care?

Imagine a professional football team whose players don't know game scores or their own statistics. They don't see game films, and certainly never review them with coaches to analyze what worked and what didn't work.

Imagine also that they don't know the average statistics for their league, so even if they had their own statistics, they wouldn't know if those were good results or bad results.

They have no way to measure their own performance. They don't know if they are getting better as football players, getting worse, or staying the same.

Who is a better model for health care: Santa Claus or Goldilocks?

Many people harbor the unspoken assumption that healthcare is quite a bit like Santa Claus, every month of the year.

What's not to like about Santa Claus? The typical 7-year-old who celebrates Christmas intuitively believes that:

• The more stuff Santa gives you, the better

• The best presents are the ones with the newest, greatest technology

• The more expensive the gifts, the better

• Santa doesn't make mistakes.

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