Home > Prevention & Precautionary Steps For Seniors > Elderly Patients Need To Be More Assertive With Their Doctors

Elderly Patients Need To Be More Assertive With Their Doctors

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Many of our seniors have grown up in an era where doctors were looked upon as authority figures. Their education and judgment was not to be questioned and whatever was advised was to be trusted 100%. Keep in mind that this was an era, in which some men believed that the only reason women went to college was to get their “Mrs.” degree. I doubt Sheila Schwartz, an attorney, social worker, wife, mother of 4 and grandmother of 11 shares the same sentiment about higher education for women.

But she does admit that she fell into the role of playing the “good patient.” “That’s what I was brought up to do,” she said. “I was an empowered mother. I was an empowered social worker. I was an empowered student. I was not an empowered patient.” About 10 years ago at age 60, when Mrs. Schwartz who was leading an extremely active life, started feeling tired, achy and dizzy for no apparent reason, she paid a visit to her primary physician. After a slight rise in blood pressure, her doctor changed her medication but with no improvement. The doctor finally told her that she needed to “slow down,” that she was too busy and she would be fine if she curtailed her hectic schedule. Being respectful of your doctor or anyone else is a matter of good manners, but assuming that he or she is always right is a big mistake.

Often elderly patients and Assisted Living Residents don’t want to “rock the boat,” by mentioning their concerns or symptoms they are experiencing. Some elderly people even look at their doctor appointments as mini social events. At one recent appointment after kibitzing about a mutual enthusiasm for basketball, the elderly patient told her doctor she was “feeling fine.” 2 weeks later, the same elderly patient was in the hospital being treated for a severe urinary tract infection that caused a sudden onset of dementia like symptoms. When later questioned about it, the patient said she thought “maybe she did have a bladder infection because of a few symptoms,” but thought it would “go away,” and did not want to “bother” the doctor by mentioning it. In Mrs. Schwartz’s case, her condition continued to deteriorate. She was on vacation when she began to feel especially weak and went to a local doctor. That doctor thought she might have an adrenal gland problem. When she returned home, she went to see a nephrologist who ran a few laboratory tests and found that indeed, she did have an adrenal abnormality that was wearing out her kidneys.


the doctor is in-charlie brown by ~yasena on deviantART

Adrenal glands are tiny organs that rest on top of each kidney. Despite their small size, they play an important role in the body, producing numerous hormones that affect our development and growth, affect our ability to deal with stress, and help to regulate kidney function. Because the hormones released from the adrenal glands are so important to the overall functioning of one’s body, adrenal disorders can have serious consequences on one’s health. Tumors of the adrenal glands can secrete excess hormones, causing an increase in blood pressure or heart rate and reduced immune function. Disorders that result in decreased adrenal gland function, such as autoimmune diseases or cancer, can lead to low blood sugar and heart failure.

The hormone, Cortisol, continually released from the adrenal glands in response to chronic stress can damage body tissues. Long term adrenal stimulation can lead to high blood pressure and stomach ulcers, and deplete white blood cell levels, increasing the risk of infection. Over time, the adrenal glands themselves can become unable to produce sufficient levels of cortisol to deal with the constant stress.  Symptoms of poor adrenal function include fatigue, muscle aches and low blood sugar. Mrs. Schwartz’s adrenal dysfunction could have been discovered early on in her condition with a simple blood test and resolved with a relatively simple surgical procedure. Because of the delay, she ended up needing a kidney transplant.

Running the risk of questioning your doctor when what they tell you does not make sense may annoy them, but it may save you from conditions that are more serious. If taking that approach makes you a “bad patient,” it would be worth it. In an article about her experience written by Schwartz’s daughter, Elizabeth Cohen, author and CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, were three extremely valuable tips for being the type of “bad patient” that just might save your life:

Ask Lots Of Questions

If you do not understand something, ask for clarification, and if you still don’t understand, ask again. The doctor or nurse might be visibly annoyed, but that should not stop you. Remember, your health depends on your ability to comprehend what the doctor is telling you.

Don’t Worry About Whether Your Doctor Likes You

If you hesitate to do anything that might upset the doctor, such as asking many questions, you’re putting your health in jeopardy. While it’s a natural inclination to want to be liked, your health comes first and your popularity second.

Remember This Is A Business Transaction

You are paying the doctor for a service; you’re not in a popularity contest. Of course, you should be respectful of your doctor, just as you would be respectful to a waitress, your car mechanic, or anyone else you obtain a service from. But you don’t owe it to your doctor to be the perfect patient.

Because elderly patients have a hard time assessing their symptoms and medical conditions to inform their primary care physician, most are opting for Assisted Living Care so that doctors can regularly check their health conditions. It gives the senior and their families a peace of mind knowing they are cared for in the best possible way. Seniors have the comfort of a doctor checking up on their health conditions any time they need.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living San Jose and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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