Those of you caring for sick or aging parents are on the side of the angels.
Recently, I got an itty-bitty taste of what you do 365 days a year. My mother suffered a mild heart attack and had to have a stent inserted. My sisters and brother, bless them, had handled the crisis stage, but someone was needed at the family home when our mom left the hospital. Fortunately, my work’s as portable as a laptop, and I had airline miles squirreled away for just such an occasion.
One week ago, I’d have bet five bucks irbesartan used to be part of the Soviet Union. Now I know it’s a drug, better known as Avapro, for hypertension. I learned Coumadin is a brand name for warfarin, and Coreg is the trade name for carvedilol. Heart patients have to be conversant with the generic and brand names of their medications. Oh, and they must be prepared to rattle off the dosages, even when those dosages change every 48 hours. (For “heart” patients, substitute “cancer” or “stroke” or whatever illness your aging parent is battling.)
Pre-trip, I imagined my mom would get lots of rest while I made nourishing soups and fetched her library books. To my surprise, her cardiologist required her to show at his office every two days for Coumadin checks. Hoo! Visits that frequent would rachet up the heart rate and blood pressure of the calmest souls among us. Sadly, those who’ve learned they can’t trust their heart to beat on schedule aren’t calm at all. They’re filled with anxiety, which is bad for their health.
My mom has four children to tap for rides to doctors’ offices, prescription pick-ups, grocery shopping and other errands, but how do patients who don’t have family nearby and/or friends who still drive cope? All of a sudden, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of 19 Kids & Counting reality-TV fame look like savvy, plan-ahead types.
It’s tougher than I expected to keep up with instructions passed on by doctors, nurses, and medical technicians. Although my mother and I listened intently and thought we understood everything, we later had questions. How do patients who aren’t fluent in English, have dyslexia, are in the early stages of dementia, or merely confuse irbesartan and Uzbekistan cope?
If we standardized the names of medications, we'd trample over brand names and irk manufacturers, but patients' confusion might ease.
The British TV series Call the Midwife reminds us that in 1950's London, nurses attended to at-home births, traveling from place to place via bicycle or motorbike. In rural America today, visiting nurses are impractical due to distances, and nurses carrying drugs anywhere would, rightly, fear for their safety. A Call the Med Tech movement, however, would allow for in-home medication checks and blood-pressure readings.
The cost of medical care is one hurdle for sick Americans. Getting to the doctor or hospital, keeping multiple medications straight, and taking those medications as directed are others.
Number one lesson from my week with Mom? Bette Davis was right when she said, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.”