The Caregiver’s Bookshelf: A Friend Indeed
By PAULA SPAN
When your aging parent is cycling from hospital to rehab to home and around again, when you’re sitting in an E.R. with him wondering if he really ought to be there, what you really want is a friend in the business.
You want someone who knows the health care ropes and the players, and can tell when a senior is being undertreated because of medical ageism ("What do you expect at your age?") or overtreated because ordering expensive tests takes so much less time than sitting down with a patient and listening.
You’d like this friend to be honest — no, blunt — in his medical counsel. He would explain, wryly but factually, how to get the most out of what he calls the "incredible shrinking office visit." He’d acknowledge that doctors can drive you crazy by deciding that an elderly patient is ready for discharge from a hospital without any sense of where they’re headed afterward. Then he’d tell you how to respond.
Dr. Mark Lachs has volunteered to be our friend in the business. An insider, as director of geriatrics for the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System, he’s surprisingly candid about the pitfalls and shortcomings of contemporary medicine, especially for old people.
Yet his new book, "Treat Me, Not My Age: A Doctor’s Guide to Getting the Best Care as You or a Loved One Gets Older," goes beyond analyzing the systemic problems of physicians who aren’t trained to treat the elderly and hospitals designed to heal patients with a single problem, not multiple illnesses.