Politics & Media
Jul 09, 2024, 06:27AM

I Left the Doctor Thinking About My Fellow Boomers

As my retiring GP explained, there simply aren’t enough doctors to handle the masses. 

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At a certain age, call it senior citizenship, you start interfacing on a regular basis with the medical industrial complex. That’s not meant as a pejorative. But unless you’ve experienced significant health challenges along the way it’s all pretty new.

Suddenly, at the precipice of true agedness, with parents, siblings, and friends in the same boat, visits to physicians’ offices and hospitals become almost a weekly routine. Just finding a space in the parking structure raises blood pressure. Whether the appointment is for myself or others, negotiating the endless halls and levels of modern hospitals can raise concern about onset dementia. The good news is that the more you visit a particular facility, the more you’re able to lay a cognitive bread-crumb trail and concentrate on the sub-complex where you’re treated. The downside: more visits mean something’s probably wrong.

My general medicine physician of 20 years recently retired. This necessitated the search for a new doctor. Either that or throw my lot to the Urgent Care Centers. Once seated across from my new caregiver (a Nurse Practitioner was deemed sufficient) who had a chart that dates back to a suspicious rash I had in the mid-1980s, the dance of denial began. “Everything is fine.” The aforementioned blood pressure reading usually isn’t as high when taken at home. There are several bothersome trips to the bathroom at night. A calcium score MRI is recommended; I agree, but don’t want to hear the results. No diabetes, but high cholesterol. A vow to change diet, get more exercise, and lose weight is taken, the subtext being that you’d rather die than start on statins.

Quantum leaps in medical technology since my last bladder infection aside, the subject of follow-up appointments reveals the reality of the contemporary healthcare landscape. As my retiring doctor explained at the last appointment, there simply aren’t enough doctors to handle the masses. I left the office thinking about my fellow Boomers.

Since becoming eligible for Medicare, I’ve spent more on fast food and treats than health care. Visiting a doctor while covered by Medicare is like going to Macy’s—the cost of the visit is around $400, but my copay amounts to what it would cost to buy a new pair of dress shoes. I leave the office thinking that one way or another my kids and grandkids will end up paying my bill.

Finally, oldsters—specifically men-- need to apply caution when attempting self-deprecating humor when in consultation. These people are professionals, they’ve seen it all, the tough-talking John Wayne types, stoic in the face of mortality. It’s construed as borderline insulting to infer that you’re ready to confront death without a pill organizer. You might feel cavalier, with your elevated blood pressure and “normal” heart rate, but these people have attended too many endings. Their job, their calling, is to keep you alive.

Besides, no one will ever top President Ronald Reagan’s magnificent quip to the surgical team who saved his life after the 1981 assassination attempt. “I sure hope you’re all Republicans."


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