Friday, December 07, 2007

A mother's work...

is never done. My patient M is 89. She lives in her own home, cooking for her grandson who lives with her, and for her son who lives next door. Bent over with lumbar stenosis,* she had to give up ironing several years ago due to pain.

But she wasn't in today about herself. She'd driven her seventy-something son over to the office because she was worried sick about his depression and overuse of pain medication. He suffers from esophageal dysplasia (abnormal cells in the esophagus with a high risk of progression to cancer), undiagnosed abdominal pain, anxiety, and depression. When I asked him why he had discontinued his antidepressant one month ago, first he said he was worried it would interact with his other medications, then he allowed as how he couldn't afford it. Out of the corner of my eye I could see M in the other consultation chair shaking her head. The monthly copay for a generic antidepressant was apparently not the problem. Occasionally she'd clear her throat to speak, but when she finally did, her son exploded in exasperation.

Good heavens, thought I as I moderated this geriatric family counseling session, is it possible that thirty-some years hence I'll be driving my son to the doctor's office?
*A condition where arthritis plus bulging discs in the lumbar spine narrow the space available for the spinal cord to pass through. As a result, nerve impingement causes pain, especially in the upright position. Bending forward from the waist relieves the pain...slightly.


Ruth said...

I hope that isn't me at age 89! Spinal stenosis...Doctors send patients for physiotherapy with this painful problem, and there is nothing that can be done except giving them a walker to support them in their flexed position.

Laura in L.A. said...

My grandma told me that you worry about your kids more when they're 55 than when they're 5, because you can't control what they do and the stakes are much higher. Are they monitoring their blood pressure and diabetes, and taking all their meds? You can only nag them so much. Your babies are always your babies. :)

Mauigirl said...

My husband doesn't even tell his parents he's on blood pressure medication because he'd never hear the end of it from his parents. ("How is your blood pressure? Are you going to the doctor? etc.)

I'm sure that a parent never stops worrying about their kids, no matter how old the kids are.

janemariemd said...

Yes, it just confirms my impression that parenthood is a life sentence! When I worked at a major cancer center I often saw adult cancer patients brought to the doctor by a parent.