Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Comedy of Errors

Well, maybe comedy is the wrong word. "An Annoyance of Errors" might be a better way to put it. This is the story of my afternoon taking my mom to the doctor's.

First of all, in order to get my mother to the doctor by 3:00 p.m. I was supposed to leave work at 2:00 p.m. I had a meeting right before that which I couldn't miss, but I figured I'd cut out afterward and skip the next meeting, which started at 2:00.

It was a long day, with a lot going on. My 1:00 p.m. meeting ended and, on automatic pilot, I went on to the next meeting. Suddenly, halfway through the meeting it dawned on me that I was attending the meeting I had planned to skip in order to go get my mother! I immediately rushed out of the meeting, spouting apologies, and called my mother on the way out the door and told her to tell the doctor we'd be late.

We arrived at the doctor's office and sat in the crowded, tiny waiting room. I had my mom sit over in a corner with some space between her and the rest of the other elderly people. (At 3:30 in the afternoon I guess only elderly people are hanging out at the doctor's office).

My mother started coughing and all the other people looked at us apprehensively. You could practically see them trying not to breathe. At that point the receptionist invited us in to see the doctor and they all looked relieved.

The doctor examined my mom and said she has bronchitis, and started writing out prescriptions. One for an antibiotic, one for a cough medication and one for an inhaler to help clear her airways. As he was filling them out, I mentioned that my mother is sensitive to Dextromethorphan, the drug that puts the "DM" in Robitussin DM. My mother then mentioned she can't take most decongestants as they make her heart race.

We left the doctor's office armed with our three prescriptions and went on to CVS to drop them off while we went grocery shopping. After the grocery shopping, we went back to the drug store and I left Mom in the car while I went in to pick up the prescriptions.

Of course there was a line of people waiting for their prescriptions. CVS was running behind and no one's prescriptions were ready. The line was not moving. I was behind a young guy with a toddler (a small, germ-laden toddler). Another woman was coughing and sniffling while waiting for her prescription. I had been in a doctor's office full of sick people. I felt a need for Purell.

Finally it was my turn to get the prescriptions...which of course weren't ready. So I waited a little and then the woman behind the counter, who was foreign and didn't speak English well, brought me the three prescriptions. She pointed at the paperwork for one of them and said "Did you expect this?" I had no idea what she meant so I said yes, thinking she meant the drug itself. But then after she rang up the bill it was $192! I said "Is that right? What cost so much?" She pointed to $155 on the receipt and said "This is why I asked you if you expected it," and it turned out to be the cost of the inhaler the doctor had prescribed! I questioned it, but it was correct, so what could I do but pay it?

When we got back to my mother's, I got her to take her antibiotics right away and then we tried to do the inhaler, which is some kind of inhalable corticosteroid. It is very complicated. It comes in the form of a disk, which has to be twisted to reveal the part that the patient is supposed to inhale out of, and there is a lever that has to be moved to provide the exact dosage.

So I did all that ahead of time so my mom would only have to inhale. I had her exhale once and then try to inhale this stuff. She didn't manage to get a good grip on it with her lips and when she inhaled she didn't feel anything. I don't think she got a bit of the stuff, but the instructions said not to do it twice because it's dangerous to inhale extra.

So, for $155 we got a useless, complicated thing that my mother will probably never get any use out of. (Pardon the dangling participle, but I'm not about to say "out of which she will never get any use.")

OK, on to the next debacle. My mother went to take the cough medication, which was in pill form. She discovered there was exactly one pill in the container! And yet she was supposed to take it every twelve hours. So I called up CVS and they said "Oh, we were out of stock on it, that's why you only have one. The girl should have told you." Great. So I asked if they could call it in to another CVS and they agreed to do that.

But in the meantime, I took a better look at the drug container and realized the cough medication was called Tusso-DM. DM always means Dextromethorphan. So I looked it up on the Internet (I knew I gave my mother my old computer for a reason!) and found out that not only did the stuff have Dextromethorphan in it but it also had a decongestant!

So the doctor totally ignored what we were saying and prescribed something that includes both of the ingredients that don't agree with my mother. Luckily I had gotten her a cough medication over the counter on Saturday so I told her to just keep taking that.

So that is the story of my afternoon. It made me really wish we still lived in a world where doctors made house calls and brought the medicine with them.

(Photo credit: http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/7aa/7aa102.htm)

The good news is, my mother is now feeling better. And maybe we can donate the $155 inhaler to charity. Think I can write it off on my income taxes?

And, thanks for everyone's concern and good wishes for my mother.

Today's haiku:

Doctors and drug stores
Antibiotics and pills
Now Mom is OK.


s. douglas said...

Glad she's feeling better.

I always laugh when people tell me how "intelligent" Doctors are.

M said...

Oh my God. You are a better woman than I. My post on the matter would not have been so good natured. Oooh, sometimes doctors really rub me the wrong way. And please don't let me get started on CVS Pharmacy! Glad things are looking okay, despite, and certainly not because of, the doctor.

Christopher said...


Does you mother receive Medicare?

If so, she should be signed up for Part D prescription drug coverage. It's a pain and not perfect but if she chooses a good plan like AARP Medicare RX, most meds are covered with a tiny co-pay of $2 or $5 dollars. Much better than $155 for the inhaler.

Also, if she doesn't qualify for Part D, most doctors and clinics have a social worker who can enroll her in an access program where she can get her meds gratis.

Glad she's feeling better!

Mauigirl said...

Fairlane, so true. And I think one of the problems doctors have is that they just plain don't listen to the patient. Luckily my own doctor is a lot better about that kind of thing than my mom's!

M, believe me, I was cranky yesterday. But I figured it would help put it in perspective to blog about it with some humor! And it worked! ;-)

Christopher, totally agree. She SHOULD have signed up for Part D. My father had prescription drug coverage from his old company and he was always the one who had a myriad of prescriptions so my mother never worried about her own coverage. Ordinarily the number of medications she gets is ZERO. So it didn't seem a priority. But now I think it would be a good idea for her to sign up for it and we're definitely going to work on that. She has AARP secondary insurance but not the Rx coverage; that's another possibility. Thanks for all the suggestions.

Sue J said...

I can completely relate! I too have taken my elderly parents on doctor's appointments and to the pharmacy, and I understand the patience and need for a sense of humor in taking on those tasks.

I really worry for the folks who don't have someone like you to talk to the doctor or to double-check the prescription. There must be a lot of cases of elderly people who's already fragile health is further compromised by mistakes like the ones you described.

Keep writing, though. I find that re-telling these kinds of anecdotes in my own life definitely helps my humor ...

S said...

That is a story that you made funny but that is also really tragic, y'know? What if you hadn't been around to spot these errors?

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to hear that your mother is doing better.

What a hassle you both had. I would have really lost my shit at some point.

And I would have self-medicated with a cigarette, vodka and chocolate. Perhaps not in that order....

kuanyin333 said...

I too have some crazy doctor's stories! You have to be very careful about doctor's these days! I'm glad you're on top of things for your Mother's sake.

Mauigirl said...

I agree - it could have been a big problem if my mother were less "with it" and didn't have anyone helping her.

And the whole idea of giving a nearly 90-year-old woman such a complicated inhaler really irks me (and he didn't even tell us it would be expensive!). I know they make them in an easier to use form than this.

And to several of your points, what if my mother had no one to help with this stuff or figure out the prescription had that extra stuff in it?

It's kind of scary for me, as I don't have kids myself so when I'm old I won't have any advocate watching out for me! I think this is a big opportunity for a business for people to help the aging baby boomers cope with doctors and pharmacies, and Medicare issues too of course. It's really turning into a "do-it-yourself" society.

DCup, I unfortunately don't drink or smoke anymore (and believe me I'd have been doing both after yesterday!) but I do like my Xanax and chocolate! LOL!

Loren said...

Advair is actually great stuff, and you don't really feel it when you take it. It's a small pill that gets crushed and you inhale the powder.

It's the reason I have Part D of Medicare as I take it regularly to prevent asthma. But the copay on Advair is $28.

It works exceptionally well for bronchitis, too. And I would take it until it's all gone as bronchitis is an infection of the lungs that often doesn't seem too bad.

I walked three miles a day rather quickly when I had Bronchitis and didn't go to the doctor until I had trouble making it up a steep hill. Advair will almost always cure my bronchitis within a few days, but I finish it once I've started, which is best with most medicines.

Mauigirl said...

Loren, thanks for all the good information on Advair. My mother tried it again today (apparently she was better at getting it done than I was, so it just goes to show you she's still sharp as a tack!) and it registered as having used a dose so I think she got it. We'll definitely work on signing her up for Medicare Part D - $28 sounds a lot better than $155!

Dorothy said...

I'm so disappointed in our medical system today. And of course the elderly and the poor pay the highest price today. Bless you for being there for your mom. Lets hope more of us stick together as a family and help the ones in need.

My best,
Dorothy from grammology
call gram

Fran said...

Wow- glad she is feeling better.

What an ordeal. This is a classic tale of what is not working with healthcare... everything for example.

That is outrageous.

And it makes me think of all the older folks who don't have kids nearby to help and/or money to pay for such things.

You better give that doctor a piece of your mind.

Gail Rhyno said...

Hi I'm lurking...just stumbled onto your blog while voting for a gal on a my mailing list (the 'get paid to blog for a year thingy) and noticed your blog. I noticed it because it was called Mauigirl and my business name is A Maritime Girl. So I clicked. Then I saw that one of your favorite books listed was Anne of Green Gables and I live on Anne's Prince Edward Island..so I thought..hmm...that's weird, I should say hello just for giggles.

So Hello!

Mary Ellen said...

Mauigirl- Man that sounds exactly like the stuff I go through with my mom and mother-in-law. Taking care of seniors isn't easy is it?

For one thing, that inhaler? You should have been given one for free. Most doctors offices have them as samples from the drug companies. That's exactly like the one my son takes because he has asthma attacks in the Spring or if he gets a bad cold. Usually, when a patient is using it for the first time, you get a free sample.

Your mom is lucky you checked that cough medicine. I would bring it back to the doctors office and give him/her hell and tell them to listen next time. Your mom may be a senior citizen..but she's your mom and you want her around a while longer.

My mom went in to have an ultra sound on her liver done and the stupid tech didn't know what she was doing...did it on the wrong side to start, and then pressed down so hard she broke my moms rib. I felt horrible because that one time, I waited out in the waiting room when she went back, usually I go with her. My mom said she was telling her that she was hurting her, but I know my mom...she's very quiet and didn't want to make a fuss. Had I seen my mom even wince, I would have spoken up because she wouldn't do that unless she was in real pain.

I hope your mom feels better soon...and you definitely need that Purell stuff...those doctors offices are just full of germs!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, your "daughter" will take good care of you!

LET'S TALK said...

Great to hear that your Mother is feeling better Mauigirl.

I moved my Mother into my home last year and make a lot of visits with her when it's time for an appointment to the doctors office.

It's amazing how they get things wrong at the doctors office and at the pharmacy. It's good that you take the time to insure the proper care for your Mother is being rendered.

Mauigirl said...

Dorothy, I agree. Our medical system, which the Republicans like to say is the best in the world, is certainly nothing of the kind anymore. Maybe at one time it was but now doctors rush through appointments, they overbook, they make mistakes, and the patient is always the one inconvenienced no matter what(for instance, in the old days the doc took blood samples in the office at the time of your appointment; now because of insurance requirements we have to go to a separate clnic to get the blood drawn. How annoying is that. I wonder how many people just never get their important blood tests because they don't get around to going for them. I know it takes me forever to get around to it.)

Fran and ME, you're right, I should call my mom's doctor and complain. I will do it! And I'll ask why they didn't have a free sample they could give her, good point.

ME, that is terrible what happened to your mother! I can't believe they broke her rib. You'd think they would be more careful with someone her age. That is outrageous.

SueJ, you are right - I'm sure some people are put on incorrect medications for years without knowing, and who knows what effects it may have.

Let's Talk, I'm glad you moved your mom in with you and are able to keep on top of her medications and doctor appointments. My mom lives down the street in a senior citizens apartment building so it's the next best thing (actually the best thing, since she smokes and we don't so we're happier not living together!). It sure helps to have them close by.

Gail, thanks for visiting and I hope you'll be back!

Friend #2, can we get that in writing? LOL!(For those who don't know, Friend #2 is referring to her own daughter, who is so much like me in personality that we joke about her actually being my real daughter).

TomCat said...

Loren said Advair is actually great stuff, and you don't really feel it when you take it. It's a small pill that gets crushed and you inhale the powder.

I can conform that, because I take Adv-Air also. He must have given her the low dose. The strength I need costs more.

Sorry you had such a hard time, Maui.

Mauigirl said...

Thanks, Tomcat, I'll let her know she may be getting some good out of it after all (she kept feeling as if nothing was happening).

TomCat said...

Maui, one more thing, just in case they forgot to tell you. After using Adv-Air, she need to rinse her mouth and spit out the water. It's in the fine print that nobody reads or tells you.

Mauigirl said...

Tomcat, thanks - being a professional hypochondriac, I did read that fine print and have been asking my mother if she's remembering to do it - she assures me she is.

link building service said...

Look for us for manual link building services.