Monday, July 5, 2010

It's a Rainy Day Today

It's raining this morning. Not really earth shattering news, except that it's almost July in Texas, a time when rain is a scarce commodity.

Something I often talk to the adult children of my clients about is how they can encourage their parents to spend money for care. I talk about how their parents saved all this money "for a rainy day" (see, there is a connection), and yet the parents don't recognize that it's not only raining, but it's a storm out there. But my clients aren't the only ones who don't see the rain.

As professionals, doctors, nurses, social workers and other health care providers have often failed to recognize the storm warnings. Today there is an excellent article in the New York Times  about the need to prepare for more care for older adults. This is something I've talked about before. There just aren't enough health care professionals being trained in the very specific care needs of older adults.

Just as an example, I've been to two doctor's appointments with my mother recently, one to her orthopedic surgeon, and one to her geriatrician. Mom has been having trouble sleeping since her surgery, and the nurse at the surgeon's office told Mom to take Benadryl to help her sleep. After the appointment I told Mom she was not going to take Benadryl because of the potentially negative side effects this medication has in older adults (seizures and hallucinations, to name two). Now, I chose not to argue with the nurse, and I'm sure some will criticize me for missing the teachable moment, but this is a nurse that I had gotten off on the wrong foot with, and I suspected she would not take kindly to my interference.

But this is a perfect example of how someone in a medical practice catering to mostly older adults is not properly trained. Luckily, Mom has me to tell what is OK and not OK, but I'm not a medical person, I just happen to know a little more than some. I wonder sometimes how many like Mom have followed this nurse's advice, and had a bad drug reaction, which might have resulted in a hospitalization.

I guess the moral here is that we all need to find ways to encourage young people to fall in love with the idea of working with older adults, and do what we can to support those who already do. Geriatricians are among the lowest paid doctors out there, yet they are the ones who spend the most time with their patients, and that should be rewarded.

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