The future of our healthcare system looks bleak from where I am today. I have an aging mom that is on Medicare with a supplement. She is on a limited income and within the last eight months she has had surgery on her carotid artery and a triple bypass. Subsequent to these surgeries she was hospitalized for a urinary tract infection that took seven days to get to a manageable low for her to go home but the infections have since repeated. She has a primary physician who refers her out to specialists as if he had stock in the insurance company in charge.
Before all of these surgeries she was a vibrant, strong, and young seventy-six year old. Now she is an ailing seventy-seven year old with chronic infections. Her heart and blood pressure are doing well but now she barely eats real food, only liquid supplements, and has lost thirty-five pounds. Along with the infections she always feels like crying and so the doctor put her on antidepressants. We found out she has only fifty percent kidney functions, kidney stones, and has constant diarrhea.
We started out going back and forth to the cardiologist, the surgeons, and the primary physician. Her pills increased from approximately five to around twenty. I made sure I called the cardiologist every time she got a new pill from the primary so that we would not have any drug interactions. Frankly I got more help from my pharmacist than the doctors. I even had him check if any of the meds would make her lose her appetite and two actually could. One we were able to take her off of but one was a blood thinner she had to have according to the cardiologist.
While in the hospital with the infection we found out that she had mild diabetes. She never had it before. I know many of these are signs of aging; I am not trying to say it is all because of the doctors or hospital. We live in a huge metropolitan city with very good doctors and hospitals for which I am extremely thankful. The problems lies with the procedures put in place to get problems solved.
The primary doctor did all the blood work and found out about the diabetes, kidney stone, urinary tract infections (subsequent to the one in the hospital), and bowel infection as well. He put her on a pill for the diabetes once in the morning. I asked if we should have a monitor to check how it was doing and he said there was no need. This puzzled me since I had an aunt who recently passed away who had diabetes all her life and a brother who also has diabetes and they are constantly monitoring.
Anyway, I then asked him for a referral to an urologist, a gastrointestinal doctor, and an endocrinologist. He said his staff would call me and when they did they had a referral ready for the urologist only. When I asked about the others they said, “Oh, we can not do them all at once, after you see this doctor then you come back and the doctor will talk to you about seeing the others.” Okay, so we went to the urologist who did more tests and then told us that we had to go to the gastrointestinal doctor first and get the diarrhea stopped before he could help us or we would just keep having infections. So I called the primary back and told them and got the next referral. The urologist said to go see the gastro guy the next week and return to him the following week. Ha! We could not get into the gastro for three weeks and in the meantime she is on another antibiotic and full of large kidney stones with a bladder that is retaining too much urine.
I did not even tell you about the hospital visit, the admitting doctor was an oncologist and then she called in an infectious disease doctor to consult. She was having high blood pressure, diarrhea, and her blood sugars were high so I asked if we could not call in her cardiologist who she has been seeing for thirty years to consult along with a gastro and endocrinologist. The answer was no, no, and no. Her cardiologist’s office was in the hospital we were in and she had just had open heart surgery a couple of months prior to this stay. She was there for seven days and had four or five antibiotics.
On day five they told me her infection level was going back up so they were going to keep her there a while longer, on day six the nurses said she was being released the next day! I tried calling the admitting doctor, her assistant, and the infectious disease doctor and got no response, I called again and nothing. I asked the nurses why they were releasing her when yesterday they said they were not. They said, “Well, it dropped a couple of points and she’s okay now.” I was perplexed and frustrated to say the least.
On the day they were going to release her I asked the nurse to please get a hold of the admitting doctor for me. She said she would let them know I wanted to talk to them. My twenty-eight year old daughter was there and walked around the corner to overhear the nurse talking to the assistant to the doctor I was waiting to talk to. After a minute or two he took off and then my phone rang and it was him. I could not believe he was there and would not come around the corner to talk to me.
He was agitated from the start and before I could say anything he said that he was not going to retract the discharge orders! I explained that I was just curious as why the plans changed so quickly and wanted to make sure my mother was going to be okay. And what signs I should look for if the infection did not completely go away. He started talking to me as if I was illiterate so I asked him to talk to my daughter (before I blew up) because she was a biology major and spoke his language.
We are awaiting our gastro appointment tomorrow which will undoubtedly result in more tests and more time. In the meantime Mom is not well and because we live in a large metropolitan city everything is far away and hard to get to. Most of the doctors we are seeing are at least thirty minutes or more away. She is barely up to the trips.
As all this is going on in my mind I am thinking about all the elderly people who have no one to care for them and no extra income to pay for specialists. I do not know about the other supplements but Mom’s is thirty-five for a specialist and each test is a different amount depending on if it is preventative or after the fact. Since we have been going at least every other week to specialists and back again and then for tests as well, I know for a fact that my mom could not afford it, not to mention the hospital admitting fees of four hundred and sixty dollars.
Besides that, she is too sick to drive and no one would really want her on the road in her condition. Even if they have a bus she could call she is too sick to deal with it, she just would not go. So what would happen to her? I suppose a line from Scrooge would be appropriate in this scenario, “Then they should die and decrease the surplus population.”
Is that what our healthcare system is heading towards? Is it the annihilation of the senior population or the survival of the strongest and fittest? I may be getting a bit carried away but I have been in this thing from the start and I never realized what went on because Mom has always been so healthy.
And to top that off it is not just the elderly who are not getting good care. Just recently my son sustained a sports injury which took us to the urgent care facility because it was the weekend. They were great and said it looked like a hairline fracture in the small bone of the calf and then told us to see an orthopedic right away. We made an appointment on Monday and went with x-rays in hand and the doctor did not see anything so he took his own x-rays. He told my son to walk on it and to come back in two weeks and see if the bones spread. If they did it would mean ligament damage or something and we would go from there.
A week went by and he was in constant pain, especially at night. On Thanksgiving Day he was visiting a friend and was walking away to go to his car and did not see a decorative stone in the yard and tripped. When he fell he heard a pop and was in terrible pain. We again went to our urgent care facility and got x-rays and the bone was snapped. The doctor there was amazed at the orthopedic doctor because he referred many people to him. They gave him a stabilizing cast and told us to see the orthopedic again. I debated on whether to try another doctor but then thought we would have to start all over.
When I called I explained our dilemma and they told us to come right in (this was on Monday, three days later). That same morning the radiologist from the urgent care called me about the original x-rays and said it was definitely a hairline crack!
When the doctor came into the room he said, “Hmm, it was broken, you would think this was my first rodeo!” He then told his assistant to fit my son for a boot and then felt around on my son’s ankle to which my son winced in pain. He took more x-rays and said he did not see any ligament damage but that he was referring us to a specialist, which is what I thought he was. He explained that this fellow only did feet, ankles, and calves. And said we could just see that doctor from now on and did not need to come back any more to see him. And my son is not on Medicare or a supplement; he is free to choose whatever doctor he would like.
What will happen when we are required to choose government insurance if this is already going on? I suppose some of you are thinking that it could not get any worse. Maybe not, but the future of healthcare is frightening from where I am. And I happen to love my mom and do not want her to decrease the surplus population. I long for the days when there were doctors that were specialists in everything or at least could sit down for a few uninterrupted minutes to listen and sort it all out. Oh, do not get me wrong, my mom’s doctor is a nice guy and I believe he is really a good doctor but making less money by taking Medicare makes him take more patients and puts so many demands on him he could not possibly do one hundred percent all the time.
I do not know the answer to the healthcare system of the future but I do wish it would become less of a political thing and more of a people thing. We have organizations to save the whales, take care of the animals, the dolphins, the polar bears, etc. and that is all good. But we also need to care about the groups that fall between the cracks of society and I do not mean by becoming a socialist country. I mean advocacy. The people who have good insurance and means should not be persecuted because of the ones that do not but we should be looking out for our fellow man, especially those who have no one. My mom is blessed to have children that care for her and grandchildren but so many do not. I do not have the answers but I do think that we need compassionate, caring, and well educated people working on a solution before things get any worse in our healthcare system.