We’re going to the doctor. Can you take me to the doctor? I need to make an appointment with the doctor. Does this sound familiar?
As my parents aged we took them to ever more medical appointments. Not only that, but we had to go to the hospital emergency room regularly. A common question we’d ask is, “What did the doctor say?” I knew the answer would be some variation of, “Oh, not much.” I also knew that they were giving me the best answer they could. It wasn’t the correct answer to my question. My parents simply didn’t remember what they’d been told, or they didn’t understand it. Much of the time they just plain disagreed with it and refused to follow orders.
Each hospital visit brought another round of unfamiliar doctors. Each discharge brought new orders and medications. Because these were not what the previous doctor had prescribed, my parents thought the latest doctor didn’t know what he or she was doing. There was no convincing either one of my parents that just because they took something before they went to the hospital didn’t mean that they should continue taking it after they got home. This drove me absolutely crazy. I was a social worker serving at Capital Hospice. Many times the hospice doctors discontinued medications that the patient didn’t need any more or that essentially both did the same thing. Sometimes the new medication might work better than the old one. None of that mattered to my parents. They simply refused to believe it.
We went through the same routine with my mother-in-law. She lived in far away and her other son was her medical power of attorney. It was easier for her to hide things from us. We made fewer last minute runs in the middle of the night. She just didn’t share her health information with us. She and my father-in-law were clear: “We’re a very private couple.” They refused to share family medical history, current problems with us. As time passed, however, it was obvious that they made up their own rules about medications.
I worried about them less while my father-in-law was alive since he was a retired doctor. After he went out for a walk one day, came home and dropped dead, his wife was on her own. She relied only on doctors who had been her husband’s work buddies. That means she relied only on old doctors who often were not up on the latest medical news and techniques. They didn’t like for anyone younger than they to make suggestions and question their all-knowing power. That’s the generation they were, back before people regularly sought out a second opinion.
Recently as I read the morning paper I came across this article. It all sounded so familiar, and it’s so very common. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/i-changed-my-patients-blood-pressure-medications-why-werent-they-working/2017/08/11/406f9ba8-7625-11e7-8f39-eeb7d3a2d304_story.html?utm_term=.9ea9a633649c
If you took care of elderly people, are involved in that now, or are elderly yourself, pay attention to what the doctor says. Doing that might help you live better through your golden years.