The Ex-Doctors Dilemma.
When I retired from practicing medicine three or four years ago after a satisfying lifetime in medicine I thought I had had enough. There were a host of talented young men and women ready to take up the mantle. They were well trained state -of -the- art physicians When I made new friends or acquaintances, unless directly asked I carefully avoided bringing up my erstwhile occupation. Indeed, since I was an academic I could honestly give my profession as being a university professor rather than as a practicing physician. Nevertheless, there were frequent leaks, as they call them nowadays and medical issues sometimes dominated the conversation when that was not my wish. I was not insensitive to the fact that the exchange was not always 'story-telling', but sometimes reflected a real need for information that should have been conveyed to a patient by their physician. As a teacher for many years who emphasized the importance of communication between physician and patient I was disappointed how frequently that communication and the understanding that it brings is lacking. In this era of episodic care, it often barely exists, if at all and I frequently encounter people who for whatever reason need to be heard and informed . I suppose it is partly the consequence of the ten minute consultation (impossible!) imposed by government when it interprets the fee schedule and of other cost-cutting measures like abolishing the Annual Medical Examination, that golden opportunity when the patients got to know the physician and the physician got to know and understand the patients and their problems. So now that I have unlimited time to listen (I was always a good listener) and no patients, I try to shed a little light or whatever it takes to help when I think I need to. There is rarely a shortage of customers to listen to my unlicensed, non state of the art, pro-bono medical opinions or explanations. I rarely give advice.!
In the past twelve hours .....................................
Last night,my wife and I went out to dinner with some friends. The husband requires two canes to walk and keep his balance. After dinner, as we walked back to our car, I noted they were parked quite a distance away from the restaurant, although there were handicapped parking spots sitting empty right outside.
I remarked that he should have had a disabled persons parking pass and told him he should ask his doctor to compete the form. His wife told me he had done so and the doctor refused. I considered this unreasonable and told them so. I hope they will take some action. When I asked them the name of the doctor they wouldn't tell me.
(Later she told me she was mistaken and that it was something else that the doctor refused.). Regardless, I think it is the doctor's responsibility to firmly recommend a parking pass to someone who would clearly be at risk traversing an icy parking lot in the Canadian winter. Obviously, the ten minute consultation time often allows only the most pressing needs of the patient to be addressed.
My wife mentioned I had been having a little knee trouble and that I had bought a elastic compression sleeve from Amazon which was very effective. His wife had a sore knee too. I sent her the link! God bless Amazon!!
As we pulled up to our own door I saw an elderly man (i.e. about my age) shuffling around and looking lost.
Irene: "That old man looks lost."
Me: "Yes, I think he is."
I go over to the well groomed old man.
"Are you lost, Sir?"
"Yes, I think I am." "He points up a rather steep hill in the condo complex. "I think I live somewhere up there.".
"Hey, I don't think I could walk up there right now. Hop into the car" I say.
"Oh, I'm okay.". He shuffles on.
" What number do you live in?"
He looks puzzled. "Er, I think it's 56."
"Hop in the car and I'll drive you up there."
We drive up there. There's a car in the driveway, otherwise the place is dark. He gets out of the car, knocks on the door. No answer.
"Do you think it's where you live?" I ask.
"Well, that's not our car in the drive."
"Do you have a phone number?" Yes, but he didn't know what it was.
"Do you have a wallet?" Yes, but he left it at home.
"I'll just get out of the car and have a look around." he said.
"Not a good idea, stay in the car and we'll cruise around." He had already told me his wife would be getting worried as it was getting dark.
We drove around the complex. It was getting dark and I saw a young woman finishing up her gardening. I pulled into her drive.
"Miss, " I said,"this gentleman is lost and I'm trying to find out where he lives. Do you know where he lives? "
She knew who he was, knew he had Alzheimer's and knew approximately where he lived.
"Jump in the car and let's take a look."
That's what we did and found his wife frantically looking for him. She was very grateful and I spent a few minutes educating her as to how to prevent recurrences in the future by making sure he was identifiable.
The number of his house actually turned out to be 65. If he had wandered out of the condo complex it could have been dangerous.
As one of my friends says when I tell him I'm not a doctor, "Once A Doctor, always a Doctor".
"No," I say, "but for those with the vocation once a doctor always a Samaritan!"
I didn't have another case to deal with until the next morning at Pen Club!