July 8th, 2010 at 4:25 pm
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Taking on the role of medical advisor

by Devlyn Brooks

One of the tasks I underestimated the difficulty of when my mother moved in was becoming her health care guardian.
That’s not to say that I’ve taken over making decision about her health care; she’s still very capable of that. But I have taken on the role of advising her on medical decisions and helping her navigate the sometimes choppy waters of doctors, hospitals, medications and MediCare.
Case in point: My mother recently fell in our backyard, scraping her nose, jarring her ribs and breaking a bone in a pinky finger. After initially protesting going to her doctor, she acquiesced when the pain in her finger prevented her from doing routine things.
She was able to get into her doctor fairly quickly, but what followed was nearly two weeks of frustration and anger. Not only did the clinic send her home with no answers, they didn’t get back to her with the results of her hand X-ray for days. And then only after my mother hounded the clinic for several days.
Even more upsetting was that when the clinic called her back in to confirm that her finger was indeed broken, they sent her home with her pinky taped to her next finger and with a bottle of pain pills. That was their care.
Now, I’m not a doctor; I don’t even play one on TV. But I know a broken finger when I see one, and the fact that it took my mother’s clinic a week to even confirm it was broken infuriates me.
I wonder what would have happened to my mother had I not cajoled her into pressuring her doctor. I wonder what happens to those seniors who don’t have an advocate, or at least someone to advise them on medical decisions.
While I’m learning more about MediCare and senior health care than I ever expected to, I’m no expert by any means. I’m nervous that I’ll steer my mother down the wrong path. Or worse yet, that a medical provider will make a mistake or that something serious will go wrong with my mother’s care thanks to the bureaucracy we call MediCare.
Thankfully, my mother is pretty healthy. Even at age 73, she’s mobile and suffers no more than your average ailments that come with age. But as she ages, it’s inevitable that her health care situation will become even more complex. And I can’t help but wonder if I know enough to look out for her best interests. I pray I do.

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