Thursday, 14 November 2019

Care Partner Wednesday--Feel Empowered With An Epic Medical Team

We sometimes play a game with a parachute. Everyone in a circle holds a loop attached to the colourful fabric and pulls to keep it tight. A ball in the centre rolls from side to side, sometimes bouncing if someone gets enthusiastic and suddenly pulls tight. If a player slacks off, the ball falls to the ground.

A fun game, this also illustrates how it takes a team to support an elder. Everyone needs to pull together.

Who is on your medical team?

Obviously your doctor; maybe a specialist or two. That's about it, right? You may have overlooked a few key players.


The primary care physician plays a key role. They are the conductor to the orchestra of other specialists who might be needed and the gateway to care beyond their office doors. So here are a few questions to consider:
1) Do they understand the elderly, including the unique way drugs can react and interact in their bodies?
2) Are they open to investigating a problem, even if the patient is advanced in age? (You may not choose to do this, but the option should be there.)
3) Do they listen and really hear when you or your elder describes the problem? Do they ask perceptive questions?
4) Are they available in a reasonable time when you need them?

You may be spending significant time with this person and depending on them to direct care, Make sure you feel comfortable with the care you receive.

Various specialists may also share responsibility, depending on your elder's condition. You may wait weeks to see them and spend minutes with them, but their specific expertise can be invaluable. The results of any tests they order or recommendations they make will be sent back to your primary care physician.

Other medical support may include ophthalmologists (macular degeneration and glaucoma are common problems) hearing specialists, physiotherapists (especially important after falls) chiropractors or acupuncturists (for pain relief) and so on. Don't close your mind to any form of medical help which may improve quality of life. 

My dad had significant pain in his feet and legs and he still worked in a career which required him to stand most of the day. At the time, most of his peers considered acupuncture weird hocus pocus, but we had a relative who was both a doctor, a pharmacist and an acupuncturist. Dad went for a treatment and immediately received significant relief. A few more treatments followed, which helped tremendously, and he verbally espoused acupuncture for the rest of his days!


Did you think of your local pharmacist? Chances are, you'll be visiting them often, and they can be a tremendous help. They can flag drugs which shouldn't be taken with other drugs--something your doctor may miss. They can recommend over-the-counter medications, and check them with the drugs that are being taken. They can tell you which brand of pain relief would work best. I speak as a pharmacist's daughter, but this person is a valuable resource for you.

Nurses, Personal Support Workers

You will encounter nurses in the doctor's office or during any hospital stay, but did you know that in Ontario, your elder may qualify for a wound care nurse to visit? Skin becomes thin and easily breaks down, especially if the person isn't active and experiences decreased blood flow. If a wound opens up, your doctor may decide it needs dressing changed on a regular basis by a wound care nurse. PSWs (personal support workers) are available for hire to provide private duty care, which could give you some respite.


Although they could be classified as "other medical support," I've put them by themselves because they provide an invaluable service to your elder. Gait assessment, maintaining walking, rehabilitation after a fracture--a qualified physio can help with all this and more. Keeping mobile is essential, and that's their goal in life.

Your medical team brings together the expertise to keep your elder as healthy as possible. Physical health affects quality of life and is obviously key. But what about emotional, mental and spiritual health? For that, you need your community, the third component of your team.

Next week: Your community team

Care Partner Wednesday--Feel Empowered With An Epic Medical Team

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