Joshua found himself impatiently looking at his watch as he sat in the waiting room with his mother, Lucille. He had taken the day off to take her to her annual doctor's appointment and then to lunch. Every couple of weeks Joshua ensured that he spent an entire day with his mom, but he hated taking her to the doctor. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something about the office that made him uncomfortable.
Once in the exam room, Joshua could hear the nurse prepping the doctor just outside the door, “Alzheimer’s disease in room 3. She just needs her yearly physical.”
The doctor entered and immediately shook Joshua’s hand. He then placed his hand on Lucille’s shoulder and looked squarely at Joshua, asking questions as to her well being.
Joshua answered to the best of his ability but felt awkward that the doctor was not talking directly to Lucille. “Mom, tell the doctor how you have been feeling,” he prompted.
Lucille rubbed her knee and then began to talk but the doctor cut her off and said “Patients with Alzheimer’s disease do not give us the best information. Joshua, I would appreciate your input.”
Again Joshua rerouted the conversation, “Mom, tell the doctor about the pain in your knee…” Again Lucille began to rub her knee and wince in pain.
“Did she have a fall?” the doctor asked, “... or did she hit her leg on something?”
Lucille chimed in once again, “I didn’t fall, it just aches so much.”
The doctor looked at Joshua again, “Is it her right knee or her left?”
“Doc,” Joshua began, “my mother can answer for herself, please give her a chance.” At that, the doctor rolled his eyes in time-consuming frustration and stood over Lucille to address her. The doctor’s posturing had a superior tone and infuriated Joshua even more.
At that moment, Joshua realized what bothered him each time he brought her here… she was labeled as a disease, categorized as a sufferer and not as a human being. The doctor denied her abilities and only considered her limitations.
At lunch, Joshua apologized to his mom for the morning’s events. “We are going to find you a new doctor,” he said, “I can’t imagine how disrespected you felt when the doctor talked over you.”
Lucille brightened up and tilted her head with a smile on her face. “Thank you for helping me. I never did like that doctor very much. He acts so busy, so high and mighty. I never feel listened to.”
Joshua realized that the doctor treated her like a box that needed to be checked off at the end of a busy day and not as an individual with unique capabilities. The label of “Alzheimer patient in room 3” limited the doctor’s willingness to look at Lucille as a whole being with a past, present, and future, and he would not let that happen again.
~ Catherine Braxton
Catherine Braxton is the Cheif Education Officer of Silver Dawn Training Institute
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