Dignity and discretion with dementia at the doctor

I had two experiences with my mom at two different appointments with doctors this week.

First, we saw a new neurologist to evaluate her worsening dementia and see what we could do to reduce frightening hallucinations and worrisome delusions.

I called ahead of time to ask if I could speak to the doctor alone at the beginning of the appointment and the scheduler confirmed that I could do that. I arrived with records and notes.

The doctor came into the waiting room and loudly announced “So the daughter wants to meet with me first.”

Just because someone is suffering from dementia does not mean that they have lost their humanness. They should be respected and treated with compassion and discretion. I can’t help but wonder if my mom knew that we were in there discussing her, but thankfully, on this particular day, I think that she was quite unaware.

After my meeting with the doctor, he came out into the waiting room and decided to do the cognitive testing on my mom right there out in the open. The receptionist was there, my dad and I were there and during this cognitive grilling, another patient walked in with their spouse and he sent them to the end of the hall to wait and they were still within earshot. Where was the patient privacy? My mom, who is usually devastated by these tests because she knows that she cannot perform them very well, was not at all upset because her cognitive awareness has significantly declined.

We will not be seeing this neurologist again. He was unprofessional in so many ways.

Our second appointment this week was refreshingly different. My mom has had some recurring urinary tract infections and she had some recent surgery in that area. She told me that she thought she had ripped something down there and she was quite embarrassed about it but we needed to see the doctor and get a catheterization.

I called ahead of time to give some details about what had transpired and that we did not want it discussed during the visit, I just wanted him to check the area without comment. The visit was conducted with complete mastery. The doctor and nurses were gentle and soothing with their manner and tone. The nurse whispered to me that the doctor had gotten my message and was going to attend to the concerns enumerated.

It is your duty as a caregiver to fight for the rights of the person in your care. Any doctor who cannot display discretion and dignity should be discharged.

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