Doing Life Together

isolated-1188036_1920The doctor isn’t God.

I have a favorable opinion of medical doctors. Right now, I am training student doctors to become physician one day. Physicians have helped my family many times through the years, but they are not God and need to be questioned. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially concerning the care of an elderly parent.

A few years ago, my mom took a turn for the worst. Suddenly, she was not making sense. She was talking about crazy things so my dad took  her to the hospital. The emergency room doctor listened to her, examined her and referred her to the psychiatry ward. When my dad called and told me, I couldn’t believe it and asked why the doctor wanted to send her to the psych unit. He said, the doctor suspected dementia.

Now, I know dementia doesn’t manifest overnight. A sane woman doesn’t go from having a sound conversation with her daughter to talking crazy the next few days because of dementia. ‘Dad, put the doctor on the phone.”

When I spoke to the doctor, he noted some elevated labs but was convinced that given her age, this was probably dementia.

“I know my mom, talk to her everyday. She does not have dementia. Did you check for Urinary Tract Infection? She does have a history of these and right now, my dad is her caretaker.”

Turns out, he did, but the lab didn’t run the correct test. Mom had a massive Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and was experiencing a delirium-like state, which explained why she sounded crazy. As soon as she was treated with medication, she returned to her old self. NO dementia, just old age and a UTI!

I get that the emergency room doctor was seeing patients piling up in the waiting room the day he saw my mom. But this was my mom and I had to question what he was about to do. He didn’t know her like I did. And his recommendation did not make sense so I questioned. And I pushed. Thank goodness, or she would have ended up on a mental ward not getting the appropriate help. And thank goodness, I had a physician who valued the input of family.

The moral of this story is that doctors are not God, but  people! They get busy and miss things. And while I have complete respect and appreciation for the training and expertise (trust me, their medical training makes them worth every dollar they get!), they receive but they are people  and don’t always get it right.

They need you to participate in care. So don’t be afraid to question and push when you know that they could be missing something. The patient’s family knows the patient best. And in our current medical climate in which time with patients is a precious commodity, be the advocate for a family member. Speak up. Collaborate with your physician. If something doesn’t feel right, tell him or her. It could mean all the difference in care.

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