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Maneuvering the medical system

 

Treat Me, Not My Age is written by geriatrician, Mark Lachs, MD*.   The book discusses

  • Why you should be an informed patient
  •  How to become  informed
  • The pitfalls of being an aging patient in our current medical system
  • How to take charge and  maneuver the medical system maze

There are doctors who

  • do nothing for  aging patients even though appropriate, aggressive treatment may improve the life and well-being in the elderly the same as someone younger.
  • over treat aging patients, not understanding the patient’s health situation.
  • talk down to an elderly patient and blow off patient’s concerns attributing them to aging problems instead of symptoms of disease.

Over 98,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors. Many more are injured. The average primary doctor has about 2000 patients.  Dr. Lachs makes clear the perils we face as patients. He then offers  a guide to managing medical issues that we encounter as we age.

He believes “…the most important primary care provider is you.”  It is your life. You are the one who needs to keep track of what is going on.

If your doctor visit is 20 minutes and your doctor sees up to 2000 patients,  he might need a little help remembering your case.  It is wise to go for an appointment prepared. Get organized.  Write it down. He suggests:

  • Articulate your chief concern.
  • Organize your thoughts before the doctor visit.
  • Prioritize what you want to discuss.
  • List what has happened since your last visit, medically speaking.
  • Bring your list of medications
  • Get a specific follow-up plan: what is going to happen when you leave his office, when will you get test results
  • Get the doctor to be transparent. Make him explain your situation to you

Sometimes important information does get lost in the digital chart.  It is wise to have a hard copy of your medical summary.  He suggests keeping a one-page “greatest medical hits” list on your person at all times. It should include

  • A complete list of your medication with both the brand name and the generic name, the dose and the schedule. Updated.
  • List of allergies
  • List of major medical problems
  • List of surgeries
  • Photocopy of most recent cardiogram
  • Description of any abnormal lab findings

Dr. Lach’s discussion on the medical issues facing us as we get older is easy to understand and is helpful. He also discusses many more issues such as the importance of movement, geriatric financials, surviving hospitalization.

He believes it’s never too late, “there’s always more quality and quantity to be squeezed from any aging body and mind.” We are motivated to make our lives the best we can without ever stopping.

*Dr. Lachs is Director of Geriatrics  at New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System. He is also Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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