Is your doctor ignoring you?
Updated: Aug 14, 2022
Weeks after she’d fallen off her bike, a 39-yer-old woman told her doctor that her elbow was still hurting. “Well," replied the doctor, ”you’re overweight and it’s putting stress on your joints.”
When the pain persisted, she went to an urgent care center, where X-rays showed she’d chipped a bone.
That’s far from the only case where providers shrugging off patient problems led to misdiagnoses, delayed treatment, and needless suffering. A recent New York Times article on the subject drew more than 2,800 reader comments. The problem’s been attracting enough attention among both the medical community and the general public to have acquired a nickname of its own – Medical Gaslighting.
“Gaslighting is real; it can happen to anyone,” cardiology professor Jennifer Mieres at Hofstra University’s Barbara Zucker School of Medicine told the Times. But it can happen to some types of patients more often than others, particularly geriatric patients and women.
How can you tell if it’s happening to you?
· Does your doctor appear to be unengaged?
· Does he constantly interrupt you?
· Does she pooh-pooh or minimize your symptoms or refuse to discuss them?
· Does he fail to order imaging or lab work that would confirm or rule out a diagnosis?
· Does she come across as condescending or belittling?
· Does he attribute your symptoms to mental illness but not have you screened for it or give you a behavioral health referral?
If too many of the answers to these questions are “Yes,” here’s what you can do about it:
· Keep detailed notes and records of what your symptoms are; what they feel like; when you feel them and on which days; what triggers, if any, you notice; and whether the pain’s constant or varies.
· Also, keep records of your lab results, imaging, medications, and family medical history. (If you belong to a Medicare Advantage Plan you’ll find them all in your online account, from where you can download them and print them out.)
· Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Before your appointment, prepare a list of questions you need answers to. And ask more questions as you hear more information.
· Bring a trusted friend, relative, or other advocate with you. (See below.)
· The average primary care exam is only 18 minutes long, so prioritize your questions and put first things first.
If you find that you’re still being ignored:
· Get a second opinion. Medicare Part B covers them. Your specific plan will likely require a referral to an in-network provider. When you consider that some 12 million American adults were misdiagnosed between 2006 and 2007, according to a statistical study, this could be a real game-changer.
· Do online research. You’ll be amazed how much good information is out there.
· For useful information, check out support groups for different conditions.
· Appeal to higher authority. If you’re in a hospital, contact the patient advocacy staff or your doctor’s supervisor.
A few paragraphs ago, I mentioned the importance of having a health care advocate. That’s one of the specific services we provide. We’ll accompany you to doctor appointments, make sure your doctors know about any health changes that our weekly monitoring and monthly Registered Nurse checkups discovered, and keep all your doctors, along with your family, up to date.
But we also regard ourselves as your advocate in a broader sense. From our initial three-part needs assessment on, we design your coordinated care plan around your schedule, your values and priorities, and your hobbies, interests, activities and social life as well as your health needs.
So please contact us to learn more about holistic senior care management planning the concentrates not just on your state of health, but on you.