Five Personal Lessons On Health Care
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 29, 2009
It’s rare for me to be gone from this blog for more than a day, but I had a very compelling reason. Although I don’t want to get too much into it, my mother is suddenly having some health problems, which has prompted me to spend some time with her and my grandmother, and thus my life has centered around them for the past few days. Even now, I won’t be back home until Friday at the earliest; thank goodness for laptops.
Even so, without getting into too much detail here, there are some lessons on things that have gone on that I can hopefully impart to some of you who read this, because, in some fashion, you’re going to probably go through something similar, 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. I knew my mother had high blood pressure, but I didn’t know she’d been having problems with it lately. What this did was prompt the physician to put her on some risky medication. I’m not sure the medication has caused this problem with my mother or not, but in any case, there’s now a problem. It’s called Hydroxyzine, and it’s given to relieve stress. It also has a laundry list of possible side effects. Before you take anything a physician gives you, check it out and decide if you agree with taking it anyway. And, 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.
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 out as an inpatient. However, if the diagnosis doesn’t qualify as an inpatient diagnosis, the hospital has to rebill, which often requires sending money back then trying to collect it again. That’s a mess, but that’s the law. My mother needed a CT scan, but they knew that no matter what the results were it wouldn’t qualify her as a true inpatient. So, we left the hospital after almost 7 hours just under an hour before midnight. Now, I could have tried getting ugly, but that wouldn’t have solved anything; Rochester is a big city with lots of patients in the emergency room at all times. 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. In this case, my mother’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; heck, I’d already told her that! Also, at the hospital, until late, I couldn’t get anyone to stand still long enough to even talk to me. Very frustrating, and you know I understand how the health care process works. One of my medical friends earlier today told me I should have pulled rank more and forced the issue; I would have had she been in pain, but she wasn’t. However, every once in awhile 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. That may be a lesson many of you know, but I’m coming at it from a different direction. Suffice it to say that my mother has some strange eating habits, and some other strange habits; hey, where do you think I got it from? When I finally got a chance to talk to her doctor on the phone, when she called me to apologize for not being able to see her until Thursday (can you believe that? It’s why I’ll be here the entire week,… well, one reason anyway), I asked her about the medication she’d given my mother, why she gave it, then asked her if she had any idea about my mother’s eating patterns.
Suffice it to say, 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. See, we as patients sometimes don’t tell our physicians enough. As much as I say I hate doctors, when I have my appointments I tell my doctors everything I’ve been doing, because I don’t want to take any chances that they’ll give me something I shouldn’t have. But older folks don’t always do that; neither my mother or grandmother have ever said a word. So, now the doctor has an education, and if I have to I’ll tell her more stuff because she needs to know what’s going on before she gives my mother any more medication. She may even tell Mom to eat better and more often; that wouldn’t depress me one bit.
And five. If you have elderly parents, or family members who might not be in the best of health, you need to be prepared just in case you need to go and stay for a bit, or get out of the house fast. Last Thursday it took me 90 minutes just to figure out how to get out of the house; that was freaky. On Sunday, it took me 45 minutes; at least I got the time in half, but I really still wasn’t prepared. Right now, I’m covered on a few things, but I still don’t have everything I need. Luckily, I’m close enough to meet my wife halfway on Wednesday so I can get more stuff. That, and of course some files I really needed; backing stuff up sometimes isn’t enough when you only do it once every couple of weeks, but you’re producing stuff daily. The Boy Scout motto of “Always Be Prepared” is a good one; I need to start living by it a bit more.
And there you go. I’m glad to be here with my mother, as I see her going through some changes, and sometimes it’s sad, but other times it gratifies me when she’s better. There are a bunch of things I might have to figure out if things get worse; I also have my 88 year old grandmother living here, and her memory isn’t all that good either.
Still, I’m getting by. We’ll all be fine, but if I’m not all that regular here for awhile, at least now you know why.