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Treating Symptoms, Not The Causes
There may come a time when you are caring for your loved one, when the doctor treats only their symptoms versus the causes of the symptoms. The doctor might pass it off especially if the patient is elderly by contributing the symptoms as part of the aging process. To merely pass off the diagnosis and blame it as a result of aging is totally unacceptable to me. For the hospital to release her as well horrified me, yet it was explained to me that they couldn't keep her anymore.

I am a firm believer that when the body is not in balance, symptoms arise that are indicators of this lack of balance...that something is not functioning properly. "Dis- Ease" is the lack of ease, so when there are visual signs of disease it is important to make sure you have the right doctor who knows how to diagnosis the causes.

The past two months have been quite hectic here for me. Not having fully recovered from the events of September 11th, perhaps still "shell shocked." I was once again challenged with caregiving for my mother. She has been hospitalized for almost five weeks as I begin this writing.

My mother has been with a pulmonary internist that has given her wonderful treatment over the years. Within the past few years his practice expanded by almost 3000 patients and with the pressures of Medicare, Medicaid, HMO's and insurance companies pressuring the doctors to do less and less, the quality of her treatments had diminished greatly with several hospitalizations. With each emergency room entrance followed by a week or more of stays, the quality of my mother's condition was deteriorating greatly.

During her first hospitalization in September, her pulmonary internist, as usual treated the symptoms rather than looking for the underlying causes. While he is an excellent pulmonary internist, he promised each time to handle concerns that mom and I had over the symptoms she was having throughout the rest of her body. His attitude was to pass them off by saying " this comes with age." Several times, both my mother and I asked the Doctor to send her to a specialist for different parts of her body that were giving her trouble. Each time, he said he could handle it.

While mom has been hospitalized several times in the past few years, this hospitalization was the one where I decided to take further action. Mom's life has literally been one that was put on hold...one that she had developed fear and a victim's attitude of just merely surviving.

Fortunately in the spring, I had participated in an ARRP conference here in the city for professionals in geriatric care. I met two geriatric care managers in particular. So I dug up their business cards in hopes of their recommending a geriatrician who was knowledgeable and capable of helping us. The first woman said, " This is my work. Surely you can't expect me to just give you the name and refer you to someone. These are my fees..." The second woman's heart was open and compassionate. She asked what area of the city my mother lived in and what her needs might be. After listening to me, she angelically guided me to a geriatrician who had handled her mom... His office was right across the street from my mother's apartment building and his hospital affiliation was very close as well.

I was able to confirm his reputability with one of mom's dear friend's sister who just happened to be the head of all programs for the hospital that the doctor was affiliated with. She had gone to high school with my brother and was upset to learn of the treatment mom's pulmonary specialist had been giving to her. She was ecstatic that I phoned her and was pleased to inform me of his excellence, professionalism, compassion and caring bedside manner.

The trick was getting her an appointment since he was the Director of Geriatric Care at the hospital and the facility. I placed a phone call to the doctor and it was a few days before he was able to return the call with his deepest apologies for the delay.

I explained the situation for almost a half hour on the phone as he listened attentively. My mother had been dismissed with the same symptoms she entered the hospital with three weeks later and sent home on a Friday with no visiting nurse or home health care aid until the following Monday. I also explained that the symptoms were no better upon her release; perhaps worse then when she had been admitted. He agreed that no one should be told the symptoms were just a part of the aging process...especially in her case. He also confirmed that the hospital should not have discharged her either He said that he would get back to us within a day or so.

In the meantime, mom met with my therapist who really made her see the light about her inner strength and how powerful she was. Carol, the therapist helped her to adjust her attitude towards others and me. Whatever she said or did, my mother's attitude changed in an instant... since the appt she has been optimistic, loving, polite and happier... something shifted which is truly a gifted blessing for both of us.

On Wednesday, fearing the upcoming weekend without any professional nurse visits etc., I thought my mother might need to go to the hospital again. I didn't want to go to the doctor or hospital that had previously been treating her so I phoned the geriatrician who returned my call quickly. He arranged an appt for Friday... he spent almost 3 1/2 hours questioning us in great depth and with intensity... as he also thoroughly examined her. Within the time frame, mom's oxygen in the blood had decreased drastically and her legs and the rest of her body swelled with fluid retention even more so than when we first arrived.

It was now over an hour and a half since the doctor's office had closed. The doctor felt that mom and I were targeted right on in wanting to learn the causes so they could be treated rather than the symptoms. He assured us he would work diligently at finding the cause{s}. For the first time ever, my mother looked him straight in the eye and said. "I trust you doctor. I want you to tell me no matter what it is. If it is something that cannot be treated, I want to take full responsibility to know how to adjust and work through it so that I can maintain the quality of my life until it is my time," Needless to say I was speechless.

The doctor agreed that it wouldn't be advisable for her to remain at her home this weekend. He didn't want to admit her to the hospital through the ER and spent the next 1/2-hour arranging a bed and wheelchair to greet us upon our arrival. No ambulance would be called for it would take too long to come and pick us up. Calling a private ambulance wouldn't have worked either. It was Friday evening, in the middle of city rush traffic here in New York City, so it was decided that I would hail a cab to take us to the hospital.

He asked me to get mom dressed and he escorted both of us, holding mom in his arm until we were all outside, whereby he began to hail a cab in the middle of rush hour. This is unheard of in NYC... so you can imagine that mom and I felt well taken care of.

Upon arrival at the hospital, we were greeted with a wheelchair. We were immediately taken through admissions, for an x-ray and up to her room where associates of the doctor greeted us and treatment began.

For the first time in years, when mom phoned this morning, there was strength and optimism in her voice ... most of all love and joy. The doctor had prescribed an eco gram instead of the normal EKG because he had detected that her slight heart murmur was no longer slight...the test confirmed what he thought. He explained to my mother that I could phone and page him to speak with him...yet he suggested that we both be patient until more tests were given on Monday and Tuesday to check other suspicions he had from his examination...tests that would be even more conclusive and then he would meet with both of us and explain the whole picture in detail... What relief! ...Am I in gratitude? . You bet!!!!!!!!!!! After many needless hospitalizations, it was with great hope that we would be able to get her the proper treatment so she could go on leading a normal life.

To date, mom's swelling has gone down completely for the first time since April. Her shortness of breath no longer exists. The teams of doctors have prescribed new medications and continue to meet together to consult and monitor her. Hopefully within the week, she will be released once she is stabilized for a steady period of time.

In the interim, my mother's brother and sisters, along with myself...and yes, even my brother agreed that it would be wise for mom to enter a retirement community where there would be more opportunities for her to socialize, share meals, have weekly housekeeping, laundry, etc all done for her. The challenge of seeking out an uplifting facility weighed heavily on my mind. The only facilities that existed here in the city were assisted living and nursing homes and mom is clearly not ready for these. The thought of having to travel outside the NYC vicinity would be very difficult for all of us. Yet we were guided to a brand new retirement community that was just opening, less than 20 blocks from where we live. It is the first of its kind here in NYC. It's a wonderful community with many amenities and we will prepare to move her within the next month or two. Needless to say we are all ecstatic how things have fallen into place with such ease and so little effort. We are so very grateful and we are feeling so blessed at the outcome.

I am happy to say that my mom came home yesterday. For the first time in several years, she is confident to be on her own. She will have an aid for a while to make sure she remains stable. However, this is the first time she is actually making plans ahead of time with the inner knowingness that she will be able to keep them. She was able to walk on her own to the restaurant without holding on to any one in a heavy wind and she had no shortness of breath.

My mom has also begun taking special herbs and supplements to regenerate her lungs, heart and immune system. Her healing as been so rapid, the doctors are amazed and have begun lowering the medication dosages.

I cannot express in words how it feels to have my intuitive, gut feelings validated. For the past few years, although her health had been on a decline, something kept gnawing at me, reminding me that the quality of her life could be restored. The timing was right. It was as if we were guided and everything flowed perfectly into place.

My mother has also decided to remain living alone in her own apartment. She canceled the retirement community move. She has become so balanced physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, as witnessed by her doctors as well.

I have shared these experiences with you for several reasons. Many of you are faced with doctors who aren't providing the proper care. Many of you are faced with hospitals that release your loved one too early because of time factors involved. Don't give up. Get a second opinion. Go with your intuitive or gut feelings. Keep your power and do what you need to make sure your loved one gets the proper care they deserve. Reach out for support and direction to help you in these decisions. Don't feel stuck. Take action...

Richest blessings.

Gail Mitchell
Empowering Caregivers

Ms. Mitchell is the President and Founder of NOFEC. Her full-time caregiving experience began in the early eighties when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Later on she became the primary caregiver for her father, along with her mother who had become critically ill from burnout prior to her dadís passing. In recent years, she cared for several friends with AIDS while continuing to care for her mother and actively providing support, information, referrals and resources for caregivers.

Prior to founding NOFEC, she created the iVillageHealth Chat: Empowering Caregivers, which she hosted for over 5 years. Within a month of hosting she created Empowering Caregivers: www.care-givers.com in 1999 as a resource for caregivers around the globe. Over three million visitors have frequented the website.

Gail's leadership on the Internet and her success with Empowering Caregivers led her to found National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) INC in 2001.

She presents at national and international care-related conferences and programs and has been a keynote speaker for many programs as well.

Ms Mitchell has assisted thousands of caregivers online and offline in ways to empower themselves in their roles in caring for loved ones.

For a list of client and or her resume, please contact info@nofec.org

Gail's articles have been published in many venues nationally and in Canada.Presently, she is a member of American Society on Aging and National Quality Caregivers Coalition.

E-mail: info@care-givers.com
Web Site: http://www.care-givers.com

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