Last Thursday was Miss Cathy’s quarterly visit to her primary care physician, Dr Granite; just a tune-up to kick the tires. As usual she’d been “mentioning” the appointment daily for the last week so when the day finally arrived she was all ready with her list of questions and sitting on the couch ready to go before I’d finished my first cup of coffee. She always gets a little “wound up” (anxious, hyper and nervous) whenever we go to see one of her doctors so I was having second thoughts about something I needed her to do.
My brother, Tony and I have met with a lawyer about setting up her estate and putting things in place so when the times comes and she needs to go to a nursing home that Medicaid will cover the entire cost. We’ve got a lot things going on and part of the process requires a form to filled out by her doctor. I knew I could ask the doctor about it but it might come off as predatory, like I was setting her up to rip her off (and I gotta say-it’s not like she’s Crystal Carrington and this is Dynasty or anything, but still…. ) so I thought it best if she asked for the form since he was her doctor and they have a good rapport.
The form that we need filled out is very subjective and completely voluntary so a lot of doctors don’t want to get involved, so it might require some finesse and tact to get it (and while Miss Cathy has still has many wonderful attributes “finesse” and “tact” are not two of them). But, it’s a pivotal part of what we’re trying to accomplish so it’s important. I took my time and patiently, in as simple a manner as possible told her that we still haven’t gotten anything finalized with the lawyer but it would be great to know if the doctor was even “willing” to help out. All that we needed from him right now was to know that we could count on him at some point in the future.
I stressed that all I needed was for her to ask Dr Granite was for his help at some point in the future with a form that would state her condition and that her son (me) is her primary caretaker-sounds easy enough but the simplest things can be complicated in her present condition. I took great pains to be as specific as possible and prep her on exactly what to ask. To be fair, I was springing all of this on her just an hour before the appointment but I thought better last minute than days earlier when she might forget or get confused.
As expected, she had a ton of questions, and they just kept coming-from the obvious to the inane, I felt like I was being ravaged by a swarm of bees. Patiently (without scratching myself) I tried my best to answer all of them knowing that the more she asked and the more she knew, the more likely it was that she’d get confused. But, all I could do was hope for the best and remember what I’d learned in AA, “take the action and let go of the result”.
As I stood getting ready to leave she looked up at me from the sofa, looking like a little girl lost and said, “I don’t know why but I’m nervous all of sudden.”
I suddenly wondered if I’d put too much pressure on her by asking her to talk to the doctor, or if she felt nervous that she’s say too much or get it wrong. I told her that she didn’t have to worry about talking to the doctor about the form, she could just stick to her list of questions and I would take care of it if that made her feel more comfortable. I started for the door but couldn’t shake the vulnerable look on her face from my mind so I went back to her, gave her a hug and said that I hoped that would help ease her nerves. She smiled back at me and then we were off.
We waited for the doctor in the tiny exam room after the nurse went over Miss Cathy’s vital signs. Dr Granite came in soon after and they fell into their years old pattern of small talk; catching up on each other’s lives with a few laughs and jokes before settling into the business at hand.
When the doctor asked her if she had any questions she made a big production of bringing her crinkled piece of notebook paper out of her handbag and all kibitzing aside she became very business-like and serious as she went down her list asking about her arthritis, the nausea she had a few weeks ago and a “popping’ she felt in her knee. Satisfied with the answers (and most of all his reassurance that everything was fine) I could see her fidgeting a little, winding herself up for the “big” question.
After “hemming” and “haw-ing” a little she said, “Doctor, I want to ask you one more thing..” She started to stammer about “putting her affairs in order” and “a piece of paper the lawyer says she needs” and “wanting her children to be able to do as she instructed” (jeez, it was painful to listen to her but I let her finish because I was the one that asked her to speak to the doctor. And, as wrong as she got it and as exasperated as I was, I couldn’t help but be proud of her for trying).
I could see the doctor trying his best to understand her, his eyes trying to follow her train of thought, like watching a drunk trying to walk a straight line during a sobriety test and all you saw was them weave from point A to point B, still you hoped they’d get to the end somehow. He listened (patient man that he is) and then, seeing an opportunity when she paused (just for a second) he jumped in to venture a guess and said, “You’re talking about a form that states your wishes?” and she said, “Yes, that’s it!”
“You’re talking about a ‘living will”.(No, actually that’s not what she was talking about)
They smiled at each other, very satisfied with themselves that they’d figured out the riddle. He assured her that she didn’t need him to fill out that “form” and any lawyer could supply that document for her. She seemed a little confused but determined because knew she hadn’t succeeded in getting what I’d asked so she tried again to ask for his help but this time I jumped in before she lost him completely (and I had to listen to her struggle to get it right).
I told Dr Granite that we already had an Advanced Medical Directive in place and that’s not what we needed. I said that we (she) were working with a lawyer and putting together her Personal Care Plan and we might need his help filling out a form so that she can get a “Child caregiver exception” to help expedite the rules that Medicaid have set up to be accepted for long term care. He took a moment to digest the information then said, “sure, just bring me the form and I’d be happy to help.”
There was sign on the wall of his office (one that I’d never noticed before) that Miss Cathy had seen when we first walked in that stated that forms and other documents were to be filled out at the doctors discretion and will be billed separately from the patient’s insurance. I told her not to mention the sign but of course she did, she couldn’t help herself.
He shrugged and seemed to dismiss it saying that it’d been there for years (so I took this as a “sign” not to worry about it). Not satisfied (after the doctor had just agreed to help us and had all but told us to not worry about the sign) Miss Cathy just would stop talking about the sign and let the subject drop. Once again, as soon as I found an opening to cut her off (not in a mean or rude way-I just waited for her to take a breath, regardless of whether she had finished her thought or ended her sentence) I reminded her that it was the doctors’ office, hence his rules and to let him finish talking. She acquiesced and he continued, he told us that lately a lot of his patients had been turned down for long term care for one reason or another and that concerned him, but not to worry, he was willing to help in any way that he could.
Miss Cathy thanked him and before she got up go to another room to have some blood drawn as she has had done hundreds of times before she said, “I don’t know why but I’m nervous all of sudden.” And like Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar named Desire” she innocently took the doctors hand as helped her up out of her seat to prepare for the short walk down a familiar hall.