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
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.