Saturday, May 21, 2016

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

When I was younger I had no worries.  I did as I pleased when it pleased me.  I always thought I'd be one of those cool old hippies as I aged. It makes me smile thinking about being laid back with a live and let live philosophy.  I guess for the most part I fit that description, but last year something happened to me.  I can't really explain it because I don't understand it.  It's like something short-circuited and made me a little crazy.

I started having panic attacks and they got so frequent and debilitating that I had to be hospitalized.   I do know one thing and that's that I never want to go back there again. It's just not a warm, fuzzy place to hang your hat in a time of emotional need. So regardless, of how bad things may get, I'll find some solution that doesn't include being someplace where I feel like I'm one of the herd. While I was there, I didn't see any people get the help they needed because the atmosphere promoted "let's get the hell out of here as soon as possible" instead of "I need to stay here and fix what needs to be fixed.  And when you get right down to the reality of the situation the doctors and patients have no real say on the length of any given admission thus making it extremely difficult for any doctor to do their job. 

It's the insurance companies that dictate what care you get and how long you get it.  While I was there I talked to several other patients who were visibly upset with their doctor for discharging them when they didn't feel like they were ready to go home. The attitude they had bred distrust and contempt towards anyone who was there to help them. The huddled masses sat bitching about the doctor and what an ogre she was. She didn't listen and didn't care...blah, blah, blah. I could see how detrimental that way of thinking was and like the stand up kind of person I am I started talking to the people who were upset and explained it wasn't their doctor who was making the decisions it was the insurance companies.  Once I explained how insurance works (I was a insurance billing specialist for several years) and that regardless of what you get admitted to the hospital for the insurance companies set how many days you can stay for that thing. Insurance companies don't see you as an individual, but as a bottom line and they want to pay the least amount for your health care they possibly can.

It's the reason so many people turn around and come right back to the hospital. Gall bladder removal? It's an outpatient procedure now...you go home the same day as the surgery regardless of how you feel. Now, you may have to turn around and go to the ER later that day because you have developed a complication.  With mental health issues, it's worse... Try to imagine someone who really isn't ready to go home because they're in the throes of a major depressive episode. They must feel helpless being forced to go back to the same surroundings that many times is unhealthy and lacks a support system for the person. Fragile people don't do well without structure and support.  For them, it's easy to turn their frustration and anger on the doctor...after all, it makes sense. The doctor doesn't care. Right? The doctor and the nurses are easy targets!

So that person with depression is started on an antidepressant and probably an antianxiety med as well just for good measure, but the kicker is that the meds don't start working for 4 to 6 weeks after starting them. What's that person supposed to do in the meantime? Twiddle their thumbs and sing Kumbaya? Nope...go home and tough it out. Just remember not to get too vocal or else you'll land up in a locked room on suicide watch. The key to success is to stay calm and learn the ropes so you don't rock the boat.

After my explanation of what insurance companies can and can't do, it diffused a lot of pent up anger.  I brought the matter up in the next group everyone attended and the response was great.  I could see the frustration start to melt away as people gained a realistic understanding about how the system worked and that they didn't have to be mad at their doctor.  I was as bold to suggest that the social worker incorporate this topic into other groups in the future because many people don't understand how the system works and it stresses them out.  They assume everyone is against them and it's rather difficult trying to reach someone who has built a wall for protection.  I'm sure my suggestion never went any further, but it felt good to help a few people. Hopefully, they'll be in the position someday to pay it forward and help someone else.

P.S. Writing helps even though I tend to ramble at times...

6 comments:

  1. I am so very grateful that insurance companies don't call the shots here. Or not as extensively anyway.
    Mind you, our care for people with mental health problems is sadly lacking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's really sickening what a person with mental health issues has to go through in order to get help. Hopefully, that will change someday.

      Delete
  2. Thank you for writing this account. It addresses a subject with which I have some personal experience --a general anxiety disorder that appeared 16 years ago. Right now I keep it under control with techniques learned from therapists, Lorazepam, California Cabernet and an understanding spouse, but I know the panic, the fear, the unhappiness and frustration you write of here. What you did was make the doctor-patient relationship a less adversarial thing, and that's not always easy to do. You have my admiration and best wishes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did what I saw was the right thing to do. I try very hard to do that whenever the opportunity arises. I tip my hat to you as well for being so open and honest about what you deal with on a daily basis. It's not easy but somehow most of us find a way to function. My hear cries out for the ones who fall through the cracks.

      Delete
  3. It sickens me that insurance gets away with the crap they pull. You pay in thousands of dollars but when you need them, they find any excuse to not cover it or nickle and dime you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's the same old story, isn't it?

      Delete