Close-ups

A Patient's Perspective

Thank You, Doctor



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Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jun 15;75(12):1801.

I am 84 years old and live alone in East Los Angeles. I was born in Mexico, and although I don't speak English, I was educated in a convent and am a Catholic sister. I walk with a walker and a four-prong cane, which I'm very proud of—I show it to everyone in the waiting room and tell everyone that my doctor got it for me. I used to fall a lot and come in with lots of bruises and muscle aches.

I have a hard time getting on the local buses to get around. My doctor got a hospital transportation bus to come and get me. It even comes to my door! She's trying to get me, through a community worker, a telephone that I can carry in my pocket.

My life is saying my prayers, reading my Biblia, going to church, and going to see my doctor. I go to see her every Friday now. I used to see her less often, but I was going into the hospital—my “hotel,” my doctor and I would joke—every couple of months for leg swelling, leg infections, and a hard time breathing. Two years ago, my doctor decided it would be better for me to have an appointment every Friday, and I haven't been to my “hotel” since. I am very proud of that. I also have a problem with my lungs where I can't breathe very well. The oxygen that the doctor got for my house is helping me a lot.

Most people call me “Señora Huerta,” but I ask my doctor to call me “Juanita” because we share a carino (love and affection) that is important to me. I bring her a little gift every time I see her to tell her how much I appreciate her care. Her hug makes me feel better, and her listening. Do you know she and I even have the same birthday? I laugh because I am la vieja (the old lady) and she is not. I am very grateful to God for mi doctora. She cares for me.—j.h., 84 (as retold by her doctor)

COMMENTARY

It gets too easy during the care of our patients, with the time pressures and demands we face, to forget the “heart” and “art” of medicine. The small gestures of compassion and care need not get lost in the bustle of our day if we keep present the “person” of our patients rather than their ailments. Compliance with medical regimens, especially among older patients, often is best accomplished by giving patients the tools they need (e.g., links with their churches, links with local agencies for food, transportation, assisted devices for ambulation, communication adapters for telephones) and by advocating on their behalf. Professional satisfaction often is found in the smallest acts of compassion, and the magnitude of patient gratitude can be immeasurable.

RESOURCES

Administration on Aging

Web site: http://www.aoa.gov

Resources for older persons and their families and social service providers with an interest in the aging

Office of Personnel Management Handbook of Elder Care Resources

Web site: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife/reference-materials/the-handbook-of-elder-care-resources-for-the-federal-workplace/

Handbook of federal and national elder care resources and organizations including housing, health care, and legal matters

Close-ups is coordinated by Caroline Wellbery, MD, associate deputy editor, with assistance from Amy Crawford-Faucher, MD, Tony Miksanek, MD, and Jo-Marie Reilly, MD. Questions about this department may be sent to Dr. Wellbery at wellberc@georgetown.edu.

The editors of AFP welcome submissions for Close-ups. Guidelines for contributing to this feature can be found in the Authors' Guide at http://www.aafp.org/afp/authors.


Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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