Doctors’ orders can be confusing.


The man who came out of my doctor’s consulting room was white-haired and unsteady on his feet. I was standing at the reception desk, beside the tabletop fountain, and caught the alarmed expression of the young woman who works there.

“Is all that confusing?” she asked this man. He replied in a gravelly voice that it was. “Do you want to sit down a while and we’ll talk about it?” No, he was ready to go home. But he hesitated.

Now, our doctor is a beautiful man who goes 110% to give us good advice that we can understand. What was happening here became clear as Kerry gracefully stood and moved toward the dismissed patient, leaning over his arm to glance at the three small pieces of paper in his hand. Two were prescriptions.

He, in his distinctive voice – worried aloud, repeating questions about where “that doctor’s office is.” The third paper was a referral, and the address was strange to him, and far from the center of town.

In time Kerry calmed him enough so he could leave, and when he had, she asked me if I recognized the voice. Not specifically, I said, thinking more about the rising tone of anxiety in my mother’s voice when she became confused about strange new information she had to grasp.

Kerry explained that the patient was a personality from TV, and I recognized the name of the shows he had hosted over the decades. He was the one who generated excitement with his distinctive manner of speaking about what was just about to happen on your screen. And now he is 92. He’s still working, she told me.

“I can’t go there alone,” he had stated loudly. She had answered soothingly that it was all right, he could ask his daughter for a better date when she could drive him, and make a new appointment. It didn’t matter where the office was, as long as he held on to the paper.

Remember Tumbleweeds: A Moving Story? Some weeks ago I said I was going to start building an “anecdotal” family history workbook for visitors to this site. I reminisced about my hometown library and suggested you do the same. Well, here’s another topic: Do you remember your first doctor’s office? How old were you and what do you remember seeing there? Or do you remember your first OB/GYN? A hospital? These are changing times for health care. Get down what it was like back then. For my memories of doctors, go to my new Tumbleweeds page, and then add your comments.

11 comments to Doctors’ orders can be confusing.

  • Then the doctor will check your strength, balance, coordination, reflexes, and sensation. Health Care

    • karen

      Good point. I think that’s what the nurse was making sure of before she let him get out the door. His major problem was that he could not see himself driving to a strange part of town hunting for an office he didn’t have a picture of in his mind. Our city has changed so much in the recent boom that businesses, including doctors. have moved out farther and farther to serve new people. I remember being away from Tucson for 20 months in the mid-80s and returning to find new roads, new buildings, and having “lost” many old landmarks. In the current economy, maybe our territory will remain static for a while. That said, I once wrote a paper on the bad design of medical buildings. Check yours out and imagine yourself 75, in pain, and losing your hearing. Good signage would help. Often the numbers of buildings are up high and obscured by tree foliage. Just as annoying, entrances are inside courtyards and there are no clear indications of which one — no yellow brick road. When making appointments with new doctors (or handing them out) be sure to get landmarks. Not all of us know how to use Google Maps.

    • karen

      I replied above. You are right, but there’s more to it than physical and even mental impairment. Emotional reactions can be tremendously damaging to self-esteem and to future planning. A lot of the time when someone seems confused or unable to answer questions correctly (the stupid dementia mini-exam, for example) it is because the person is scared, you might even say preoccupied with fear. Or with dismay because he or she isn’t feeling able to do what was so easy not so long ago.

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  • the reception desk of any office should also have some decoration to make it look much better “

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