Editor’s Note: You might be familiar with this contributor’s work if you were a fan of the Caregiver’s Diary columns… Over the course of a few years, the writer described his experiences caring for his mother, father, father-in-law and mother-in-law during their final days. Since the recent passing of his father, he now cares for himself. We wish to welcome you to the columnist’s new series “The Middle-Aged Guide to Growing Up”, in which he will tackle, among other things, the transitions he is experiencing, taking care of his health his finances and of course, living life to the fullest. If you loved the Caregiver’s Diary touching stories, poignant honesty and elegant style yet uncluttered style – we believe you will also become a fan of this new regular feature… Without further ado – we present you with the second column – “What’s Up, Doc?”. To read the inaugural column – “Coming of Age”, please click here.
I’m a Boomer, born at the height of the baby boom, and I’m just south of 60. My longtime family doctor, whom I inherited when I married my wife, is older than me, but she too is a Boomer, and she knows what it’s all about.
She can diagnose with a look and a sniff. She is an exquisite conaisseuse of mid-life crises, and she knows what makes men’s mojos tick. She is perhaps too quick to dispense pharmaceuticals, but I come from a generation that’s used to self-medicating, so I’m happy with that. I have no truck with naturopathy or alternative therapies and neither does she. I take red wine extract (supposed to make lab rats live almost forever in good health) and she just says “Meh. It won’t kill you., so who cares?”
She wears sandals and socks, has let her hair go grey and decorates her examining room with photos of her grandchildren. And she has a completely digital office with no paper files. All diagnoses and file references are done online, the paper has been banished. Her system is plugged into the provincial system, into local labs and into key specialists. Of note, she and her associates built this system themselves, despairing of any useful help from the provincial agency charged with digitizing health records.
To get an appointment, you e-mail (or call, if you don’t have a computer) before 10 AM for a guaranteed appointment that day. After 10 AM? No luck. Appointments in advance? No luck. Everybody who calls gets in. That day. Let’s see the US health care system match that for accessibility!
She is, of course, on me about my smoking. I come in with a deep tan from sailing all summer and she’ll say “You’re looking a little grey, do you think you might cut back a bit?”. She shakes her head in disappointment that my blood pressure is so low, my lungs so clean. “You know you have no right to be that healthy. One of these days your habits have to catch up with you”. Apparently, I still have my habits in my dust.
Of course, my big fear is what to do when she retires, which she will inevitably do just around the time I start to really need her. She has two younger associates, but they have their own rosters, and I don’t know if they’re prepared to take on hers. Also, I have 30 years invested in my Doc, and I want her around when I start needing regular maintenance.
I realize I’m lucky; I have a friend in the country who has never had a family doctor in his life, and has always treated emergency as his primary health care. Even in big cities, having a doctor is something only people who have had a doctor for years have. Getting a doctor is very difficult. We graduate Oncologists and Anaesthetists but not GPs. Once you have a doctor, getting an appointment can be even more difficult, and triage may mean you wait for weeks for a non-critical visit.
My doctor is hooked into the lab and the pharmacy downstairs, the local hospital and a very upscale nursing home. She’s an expert in gerontology (for a GP), and knows what she’s doing around older patients. She has all the skills, and the simpatico, to be my perfect partner in keeping the chassis oiled, the motor running and the tires pumped up. I plan to be around for at least another 30 years yet, and I’ll need her help.