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A Most Valuable Commodity

Why is it so hard to convince caregivers to take the time to care for themselves? 
When a caregiver has to go to the doctor for herself, she has to find others to care for her loved one while she is away. Arrangements must be made, such as someone to dispense medicines, provide meals and take care of her loved one's activities of daily living. If she has no car, she must also make other transportation arrangements. And, of course, she must show up for her appointment on time. 

Now comes the fun part: hurry up and wait. 

A few weeks ago, I hurt my knee. Once I realized that the pain was not going to go away, but, actually intensifying, I knew I had to see a doctor. I made a 2p.m. appointment, arrived a half hour early in order to fill out the requisite paperwork and waited. And waited, and waited. I sat in the doctor's waiting room until 4p.m.. Finally, they called my name and the nurse ushered me past all of the examining rooms and into another waiting room. I sat for another hour. An x-ray was taken of my knee before I even saw the doctor. One and a half hours later I was finally escorted into an examining room, hoping to see the doctor I had made the appointment with. Wrong again. A doctor stuck his head in the room, saying, "Whoops, wrong room, " only to re-enter a half hour later, explaining that he would see me instead of the doctor I was expecting. 

The doctor I was expecting was too busy to see me. At this point I was mad, frustrated, hours overdue and in pain. At this point, I wouldn't care if Dr. Dolittle came to examine me. The doctor looked at the X-ray and found nothing wrong, but decided that I needed a cortisone shot anyway. He told me that if it still hurt next week, I should come back for an MRI. 

It was now nearly 6:45p.m. The doctor saw me for fifteen minutes. I waited 4 1/2 hours. Why is a caregiver/patient's time not as valuable as the professional's time? Why are they not on a reliable time schedule? Emergencies not withstanding, this looked like a simple case of overbooking. This time their fear that some of their patients wouldn't show up backfired. All of their patients paid with a most valuable commodity: time. I and the other caregivers I met in the waiting room would unfortunately hesitate a little more before taking time off to care for ourselves. And that would be the real shame. 

But I really don't think this situation exists out of a lack of caring on the part of the doctors and their offices. I believe it exists out of a lack of knowledge, understanding and most of all, awareness. That is why I will bring the notice of NFCA's National Family Caregiver Week (page 9) to my doctor's office, and to the care facility where my father lives. I will tell everyone I know about it, and request that they call NFCA and find out how they can participate. Most of all, I will ask them all to be aware of the millions of family caregivers and take our needs into consideration. I invite you to do the same.

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