Hi everyone.  This is a response to an article I had written in a recent newsletter called “Overcoming Communication Issues Between Doctors and Seniors”.  Greg is one of our dear readers who has cared for his 81 year old mother for many years.

As a caregiver to my 81 year old Mother, I want to get the message out there to other caregivers, that it is very important to be involved in the senior’s healthcare appointments.  Attending the doctors appointments when ever and if ever possible can make a difference between life and death! I know that statement my sound over exaggerated but it’s NOT! After reading Shelley’s bulletin on “The Importance Of Going To Doctor Appointments” with the people/family members that you are caring for is a necessity for their well-being. I feel extremely compelled to add to the bulletin that Shelley has posted.

I have been caring for my Mom for 8 years since my father past away from Cancer in 2002. Prior to his passing he would never let either my Mother nor I attend these appointments with him. So we felt like we where not a part of the care process and it was like he felt he had to do this on his own, because it was his illness and his responsibility to deal with it alone. There was only one time that  I did attend an appointment with my Dad’s oncologist and this was only after the cancer had reached stage 4. Since this experience I have felt it necessary to be with my Mom when she is going to any appointment concerning her health. These appointments over the years have been with her GP (Family Doctor), neurologist, nerve conduction specialist, an internist and finally a psychiatrist.

I do this for a few reasons. First it is because I deeply love and care for my Mother and want to be there for her should she have any questions after the appointments. These questions range from what did the doctor mean about that statement, or when do I take this medication and for how long. Why? Must I take it but with out eating first? And so many more other questions. This provides my Mom great relief knowing that she can come to me to answer the question which is causing her uncertainty and unnecessary stress. My Mom suffers from (GAD) so it is very important that I try to minimise stress which could bring on an attack.

My Mom has difficulties remembering instructions from doctors and other medical health care professional she has seen over the years. My Mom relies on me to talk with the health care professionals on her behalf. This is to make sure accurate and precise details of her health are communicated. If you are caring for someone that suffers from (GAD) General Anxiety Disorder you will help to reduce the possibilities of them having a panic attack, which can be very crippling for your loved one.  She does try to tell the health care professional what she is currently experiencing with her health but has problems communicating some of the symptoms or she forgets.
My Mom does not have Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but I have been advised that (GAD) can simulate the symptoms of dementia. So again I want to stress just how important it is for you to attend appointments. I want to make a point so there is no miscommunication, my Mother has not been diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s and it is not my intention to lead you to think she has these health conditions.

As our general society ages and gets to the age of 65 years old and over, it has been documented that they do become less mobile/agile and a little more feeble on their feet.  Their ability to retain information becomes more difficult and this can easily frustrate them. It is important to make note that they have a shorter attension span and can be somewhat more argumentative. In addition they tend to dwell a lot on what they cannot do anymore and how useless they are feeling / and becoming a bourden on us children/caregivers. It is something that I have learned to just take it for what it is and not let it affect me.

By all means do NOT feel sorry for them and cater to their every whim. You are doing them more harm then good. They need to feel useful and a part of the family environment, even it is just helping to set the table. I have strayed away from my general point of attending their doctor appointments. So I need to come back to emphasizing that please take the time and go to the appointments. Know your parents medical history, make up a person a file and each time you go into the doctor’s office, discuss your general observations of how the one you care for has improved or not but talk to the doctor and don’t LET THEM intimidate YOU! What you are doing is being a voice for your Mother, Father, Sister, Brother or friend. And in my personal experience this has saved me a lot of additional stress and confusion when it came to time to administering medications and gets the well being of care to our loved ones. Another very important point I want to make in this article is that if you feel the doctor is giving you a brush off and his advise/opinion does not seem sound “GET ANOTHER OPINION”.  Don’t be afraid as I have done this a few times and I truly feel I have saved a life – “My Mom’s”.

Another important factor is “Education.” We have a wealth of information at our finger tips and it’s “The Internet”. USE IT! Knowledge is POWER! You will get more respect from the health care professionals if you seem to know what you are talking about and it shows you are taking a great interest in the care of the person you look after. When prescriptions are prescribed, immediately look them up on the computer and look for any type of drug medication interactions which could harm your loved one. Pay close attention to side effects! And make a general daily diary that you can refer to so you can accurately detect early reactions before something serious happens. One very important note I have learned is that taking vitamins with prescription drugs can lesson the effect/strength of the drugs so you want to make sure that a vitamin is given 2 hours before or after.

Some doctors tend to treat seniors as if they complain about every little ache and pain, and that in general, nothing seriously is wrong with them.  So they tend to get brushed off or passed off back to there GP. If you truly feel that there is generally something wrong and it is legitimate in your thoughts, I would get as many professional opinions as possible. Or go right back to the drawing board and start over again! I have done this with my Mom over the years and it has paid off! For example, my Mom had been seeing an optometrist for 40 years and she came to trust him! He told her that she had macular degeneration and was going to go blind. This was a sudden shock to my Mother and she just could not accept this final diagnosis. Believe it or not we consulted with my Mom’s eye glass specialist (Again use all resources you can think of to get opinions and suggestions). My family had been seeing this eyeglass optometrist for many years and he recommended my Mom see this specialist in a downtown Toronto hospital that deals specifically with diseases of the eye. Long story short, it turned out my Mother had cataracts and was not going to go blind. A few months later she had two cataract removal operations and she can now see excellent and only needs reading glasses.

To conclude my long letter! I am just going to state that NO matter what, it is imperative that you be there and involved with all appointments as you are the front of the line for the loved ones care!

Gregory F. Pledge
Brampton, Ontario, Canada


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