Yesterday was physically and mentally exhausting for me. I took my mom to the doctor for the first time in 4 years. When she finally agreed to go, I jumped at the chance. I made the appointment a month ago and this was the soonest I could get her in. She just turned 92 last week so I figured it was a good time to check in with the doctor and see what he suggested for 3 medical issues I was concerned about. BTW, when you turn 92, people don’t wish you a “Happy Birthday”, they say, “Congratulations!” I know a lot of people avoid going to the doctor because I’m one of them. I made an appointment for hubby and I for 2 weeks from now. My dad was the opposite and “loved” going to the doctor. He liked the attention and he liked talking to a professional. He wasn’t a hypochondriac or anything, he had genuine medical conditions that needed treatment. He just looked forward to going.
May 2, 2013 by almostakiss
We’ve been going to our Family Practice doctor, Dr. James, since mid-1996. We had moved here the year before and had pored over the big book of doctors the insurance co. had sent us to “pick a doctor”. We didn’t know one from another and just picked the most generic name and hoped for the best. In July 1996, hubby was remodeling our basement and cut his hand with a table saw. (That’s a whole future blog post so I won’t spoil the fun with details now.) He had to get Dr. James (who we’d never met) to refer him to a specialist in the network. At the time, Dr. James was working in our town like a mile away. The convenience was intoxicating. No, not really but I love saying that word. 😉 Dr. James was 41 yrs. old at the time (8 years older than me and 6 years older than hubby). He had his hair in a ponytail, wore glasses and just seemed like a cool guy. He loves to talk, like maybe no one else I’ve ever met on earth. No, really, *I* love to talk but he could just talk all day on any subject for hours with just one patient. That’s not a bad thing and it gives him a great rapport with everyone! I used to say to hubby that I’d love to socialize with Dr. J because he seems so fun. Hubby squashed that idea, saying it just wouldn’t be a good idea to socialize with our doctor. Left to my own devices, I might’ve invited him over to a party at our house.
A year or so after we met Dr. J, he moved to an office somewhere in Chicago. We went there once to see him and then the following year he ended up where he’s been ever since 1998 in a south suburb of Chicago. It takes a good half hour of driving from where we live due south to get to the hospital that he has his office in. Come to think of it, we tried a local doctor for 1 time back when he first moved down there since we thought it was too far to go. This local doctor was the opposite of Dr. J. He scared the hell out of me. He immediately lectured me on my weight, told me not to ever bake again or eat certain foods, it just went on and on. When he heard my father’s history with heart disease, he spun into overdrive telling me I would have to change everything in my life if I wanted to live. He told me he wanted to see me again in like 3 mos. I was shaking when I left there. I’m a worrier anyway and didn’t need to have a death sentence put on me. Hubby had been with me and we both agreed that he was not a good fit for us as a doctor. (One of the best things is that hubby and I often go along to the doctor together for moral support and just to be an advocate for the other.) We decided then and there we would follow Dr. J wherever he went and that he was worth the drive.
Dr. J isn’t perfect and having a doctor as laid back as him has had its faults. Like when he doesn’t call back when we call him with emergencies. Or he doesn’t get back to us with test results. Or that one time he prescribed the wrong medicine for my mom. I don’t know how much of that is him and how much of it is incompetent staff. He subscribes to the “First Do No Harm” school of medicine. He often doesn’t touch his patients with a 10 foot pole, or at all, if he can help it. That sounds odd when you think of it but I guess he does something better that not a lot of doctors don’t do: he listens. As much as he loves to talk, he does listen to all your symptoms and complaints. He never tells you when to come back, he lets you decide when you need to come back. He never tells me to get a mammogram, I tell him that I want an order for one and he gives it to me. He never tells me to get a pap smear, I just do it when I can get up the nerve. The only thing he’s ever been firm on with me was making me quit birth control pills when I was 40. He said they’re too dangerous after that age. He made a remark years ago “When in doubt, yank it out.” Of course, all that did was make me say to hubby “got me a rock-n-roll band, it’s a free-for-all!” That’s just what everyone wants, a doctor that channels Ted Nugent. 😉
Getting back to yesterday, I asked him about some treatment for Alzheimer’s / Dementia that Mom has been sliding into the past year. I knew from commercials on tv that the Exelon Patch was an option. He named Aricept and Namenda as other options. Then he told us that they don’t cure, only treat symptoms. He also said that in the past few weeks, it’s been brought to the medical field’s attention that none of them work. They work the same as a placebo. So any help from them would be negligible and he said the side effects are horrible. He read them off to us and I agreed. The side effects could make her sick or even kill her which obviously isn’t what we’re going for here. He said at this point to just keep her safe. She doesn’t wander outside or try to use the stove or oven. He said we shouldn’t expect her to be able to do everything she could 20 years ago. To just let her live her life and do whatever gives her pleasure. If she wants to watch tv all day (she doesn’t) or sit on the porch and watch the flowers, she should be able to. We got discussing food and I said how much hubby and Mom love ice cream and that I limit us to once a week. He said that was right for hubby but Mom could have ice cream every night if she wanted. Just to give her quality of life and keep her happy. He didn’t even do any blood tests on her. He said at her age, it doesn’t really matter. His mother is 90 and her doctor took her off her cholesterol medicine since at her age, it’s just not necessary. A lot of other doctors would run a ton of tests on her and put her on all kinds of medication. I kind of like his minimalist approach. Above all else, he seems to know the value of life and of letting people live their lives with dignity, being themselves and doing what they enjoy. He didn’t tell her she needed to come back either which made her happy.
He gave her some samples of Vesicare to try for incontinence. Also recommended Neosporin for the skin ulcers on her left leg. I had to really keep after him to give her something for the itching. Finally he relented and gave her a script for some pills. They seem to help but make her sleepy. If she’s sleeping, she’s not picking her leg. I’ve lectured her so many times about leaving it alone but it’s either a habit now or it itches so badly that she can’t leave it alone. I’ve done everything short of handcuffing her hand or putting mittens on her so she can’t scratch. It has been so stressful for me for so long because it feels like she doesn’t listen to me. I will tell her to leave it alone and just seconds later, she’ll be at it again. I’ve tried wrapping it and taping it and as soon as I leave the room she’ll tear off the tape and bandage and scratch it. It looks really awful and is now infected. I’m afraid she’ll lose her leg. I’m staying on top of it so hopefully, if I can just get her to leave it alone, it should heal in a few weeks! Yesterday, I got her prescription filled at Jewel and got the Neosporin and she left it alone until this morning. I woke her and then checked on her a few minutes later and she’d already loosened the bandage and dug at it. That undoes all the good work of healing from the previous hours. 😦 It’s so frustrating. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to give her one of the anti-itching pills when I wake her up and hope it kicks in before she can do any damage.
We were the first appointment of the day at 10 am. I made sure we got there early at 9:50 am. The doctor was late which isn’t unusual. Mom once had an appt. late in the day and had to wait 3 hours since he was running late! He said he had 2 flat tires so with all the car troubles I’ve had, I could sympathize. We got called into the exam room at 10:45 and he spent close to an hour with us (which is what they booked her for when I made the appt.). When we got out of the room at 11:45 am, I had to go to the bathroom so bad since I had my period. I had the cramps from hell and there was a woman in the 2 stall bathroom on the telephone the whole time talking about magnolia trees. The other stall had a woman with 3 small kids. I was getting so overheated too (it was in the 80’s) and just generally felt sick. Got out of the bathroom at noon, drove back to our town to the pharmacy and it was 1 pm before we got home. I hadn’t walked the dogs yet and was going to before lunch but I was too exhausted. I did it later at 4:30 pm after I got my second wind. I was so tired and I had to make our lunch. I feel like I’m still recovering from yesterday. I’m just SO glad it’s over.