One of our generational characteristics is that we have no problem taking control of situations; in fact, we get cranky when we lose control, or perceive we’re losing control, of the things that impact our lives. Well, use this characteristic well when it comes to ensuring that the elders in your life are cared for well. Don’t park it at the doctor’s office door, or before entering the facility in which your parents live.
The other night, ABC Nightly News did a piece on a FL woman – a Boomer - whose 86 yo father was being inappropriately given antipsychotic medications for his dementia by the ALF in which he was living. Research clearly shows that not only does antipsychotic medication not work to mitigate dementia in the elderly, it actually does them harm. After being in the facility for only 2 months, and after watching her father quickly descend into despondency to the point of becoming unresponsive, he died. She knew something “wasn’t right” and now in retrospect “wished she had looked into his care further, asking them what medications they were giving him, etc.” But she didn’t. She took a hands-off approach with the facility and the doctors. It cost her father, who she clearly loved dearly, his life. Oh, and by the way, Medicare paid for all those meds, even though they are aware that such treatments are medically unsound….
I assist my 90 yo mother with her care. She has advanced Rheumatoid Arthritis which is a very disabling disease. So what I’m urging you to do is what I do myself. It is:
First: Be a full partner in care, not a passive consumer:
Conduct yourself like a professional healthcare coordinator who is responsible for a precise understanding of all aspects of the patient’s care (starting with a crash course on the diagnosed conditions and their treatments – you can get lots of factual information online) – do not blindly accept information or opinions of medical professionals who see hundreds of patients a week and spend very little time with each of them; And if you’re thinking “I don’t have time to do that” –in fact, you do, because your already spending that time reacting to crises created by the ineffectual care being given to your loved one – proactively staying ahead of the curve is a much better use of that time…
Second: Hold your healthcare professionals accountable for quality care:
Do not accept non-answers, condescension, vague answers, answers in medical jargon, or the attempt made by so many doctors to treat your questions as silly or unnecessary – you would not accept this of any other service provider, and a doctor is no different;
Third: Seek second or even third opinions:
In fact, seek out the leaders in the specialty associated with your loved one’s diagnosed condition, wherever those health professionals are – do not limit yourself to your geographical area or even your State. The doctor who saved my father’s life numerous times, when all the doctors here in Tampa had sent him home to die, is located in NYC. Also remember, this is a business, so do not accept guilt trips, hurt feelings, or any other unprofessional reaction on the part of your doctor – if that happens, find another doctor.
As for facilities, here in FL, oversight of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities is lax at best, a bad joke at worst. Even if it’s better in your State, don’t rely on others, whether government entities or facility/medical staff, to “do the right thing” by your elder, or yourself. That’s up to you…and you alone.
You have been officially alerted…