Five Personal Lessons On Health Care

I know what you’re thinking; why is Mitch talking about health care? I’ll answer this in two ways. Whereas it’s not my normal topic, truth is I am a health care finance consultant, I’m a caregiver, and I’ve been a patient here and there. Sometimes one has to diversify their blogs and speak on a topic that hits them; this is that time for me.

Mom and Me

Mom and me

Suffice it to say, over the last 10 years or so each of us have had some kind of health care scare. It happens as you get older; truths have to be told. Not all of them have been serious, but a couple have been.

I don’t read things like this all that often anywhere else, so I’m taking it upon myself to deliver a bit of knowledge. After all, this is still my most popular blog; if this one can’t reach the masses there’s no other place for me to post it so it will.

Hopefully I’ll impart knowledge you’re probably going to need somewhere down the line, whether it’s your parents or your children or even you. On some of this you’re getting expert knowledge; on some you’re getting historic opinion. Take it as you will.

Lesson one; high blood pressure is nothing to poo-poo.

It can affect you in ways you’re not expecting. If it’s a family member, especially an older parent, you might have to ask questions about things like this. My mother has high blood pressure, and years ago she was having problems controlling it, so her physician put her on some risky medication, then left town for 3 weeks. Mom started having hallucinations to the point where my grandmother actually called me; that never happened so I knew it was bad.

Before you take anything a physician gives you, check it out and decide if you agree with taking it anyway. If you do and it’s got lots of risks, make sure someone who can do something about it knows you’re on the stuff.

In this case I didn’t know Mom was taking a new medication until I got to her house. Her physician was gone, the back up physician didn’t know anything about it (please!), so I researched it and saw one of the contraindications was hallucinations. When her doctor came back she wanted to debate me on the subject. I dropped that physician and got her another one, I changed her diet because everything she ate was loaded with sodium, and within a few days she was back to normal; whew!

Second lesson; if you’re in the emergency room really late at night, there are certain tests they’re just not going to do.

This is an American thing, just so you know. The reason is financial, though most people don’t know it. If a patient stays in the hospital overnight, and it’s not related to a surgical procedure that requires a stay to come out of anesthesia, the hospital is supposed to bill that claim as an inpatient. If the diagnosis doesn’t qualify as an inpatient diagnosis, the hospital has to rebill the insurance companies. That’s a mess, but it’s the law.

Mom needed a CT scan, but they knew that no matter what the results were it wouldn’t qualify her as an inpatient. We ended up leaving the hospital after almost 7 hours, an hour before midnight. They should have run the scan earlier, but you probably know what visits to the emergency room are like. Just know there’s probably nothing you can do at that point.

Third lesson; it’s hard to get answers from people who either aren’t waiting around for you to talk to them or say they don’t have enough information to tell you anything.

As mentioned previously, Mom’s primary doctor was out of town, and the person replacing her couldn’t give us any advice except to stop taking the bad medication and to drink lots of water… which I’d already had her doing. At the hospital late that night, I couldn’t get anyone to stand still long enough to even talk to me.

It was very frustrating, and I understand how the health care process works. One of my medical friends later said I should have pulled rank and forced the issue. I would have had she been in pain, but she wasn’t. However, every once in a while I was able to get someone to stop and give me an answer to a question that I knew they could answer; I was at least that forceful. Pick your spots.

Fourth lesson; doctors don’t know everything.

During my conversation with Mom’s doctor, I asked why she gave her the new medication. She obviously said to lower her blood pressure. When I told her how Mom ate she was amazed, and agreed that I was correct in wondering why she had given the type of medication she gave, as well as the dosages.

Doctors don’t always think like this, although they should. My doctor always asks me how and what I’m eating. Mom’s doctor never asked the question, but I’m not sure Mom would have known how to answer it anyway.

We as patients sometimes don’t tell our physicians enough for them to help us properly. I tell my doctors everything I’ve been doing (sometimes to my own detriment), because I don’t want to take any chances that they’ll give me something I shouldn’t have. Of course I look everything up and I’ll banter with physicians; after all these years I have no fear of confronting a doctor.

Older folks don’t usually do that; neither my mother or grandmother have ever said a word. This means I educated a doctor, which shouldn’t be my job. But if the next patient she saw was asked better questions and ended up healthier for it, I’ll take my bow and move on. 🙂

Fifth lesson; if you have elderly parents, or family members who aren’t in the best of health, you need to be prepared in case you need to go and stay for a bit, or get out of the house fast.

On the day Mom had this issue, it took me 90 minutes just to figure out how to get out of my house; that was freaky. I knew I was going to stay over with her but I wasn’t sure how long and I didn’t have anything prepared.

The Boy Scout motto of “Always Be Prepared” is a good one; I needed to already have something in place. For the next 7 years I carried a bag of clothes in the car in case I needed to stay over Mom’s house. I also kept at least one change of clothes there along with toiletries; you just never know.

Now that Mom lives with me I carry a bag that has essentials she might need if she has an accident while we’re out of the house. This was a lesson I needed to learn earlier than I did; sometimes we need to be smacked over the head (literally or figuratively) before we remember our lessons.

I could go on forever but I’m going to stop there. It all happened 10 years ago; if my grandmother hadn’t picked up the phone to warn me, who knows what would have happened? Don’t wait until something bad happens before you start thinking about what to do. It’s possible that you might be the emergency; make sure you have everything you need with you.

6 thoughts on “Five Personal Lessons On Health Care”

  1. Hi Mitch, great idea having the clothes in the car. I’ve been like a fireman over the years when the phone rings at 2 am – I jump up, get the glasses and clothes on and off I went. My husband can’t believe how fast I can spring into action. We are down to just his dad now….He has medical alert but still you need to get there to the hospital. It’s hard when someone is there alone and can’t hear well.
    I understand about that blood pressure, mine goes up and meds bring it down too low 🙁 Then if you need any other meds it can cause it to not work. This getting old stuff is NOT fun.
    I always thought I wanted to live to 100 but not anymore. 85 sounds good now 🙂 Bless you for taking your mom in, that is a very difficult job Mitch!

    1. I want to live as long as I have my mind, which I hope will stick with me until I’m 100. However, I have to admit that I’m already feeling leg pains and I haven’t even hit 60 yet… though I’m close. I don’t have problems with high blood pressure but I’ve had to adjust my insulin levels while I’ve been losing weight. If we have to do it for others we need to pay attention to their condition.

  2. Hello Mitch great story from your own experience. My mom also is not in best health because she is getting old. I can relate with you specially on the fifth tip that you gave. Very informative!

    1. Thanks Paul. That was my most important lesson to learn. With my mother living with me, I carry a bag of emergency supplies along, just in case. I need to keep a copy of her records in the trunk as well; something I just thought of.

  3. Hello Mitch,
    I liked your idea of carrying a bag that has essentials. My mother is suffering for asthama, but normally it is hard to carry the nebuliser machine and portable asthama machine is not effective.
    Thanks for sharing your life lessons.

    1. There are things you definitely can’t carry around because they’re needed on a regular basis. I have sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine to sleep every night but in an emergency I’ll have to chance it and hopefully be able to sleep without it for at least one night.

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