Okay, I had a conversation today with my mom that triggered an immediate need to post something. Nothing like a rant about my mother to get me motivated to write.
First, some background~
My mom is 72 years old and lives with me. She has been battling physical challenges since before I was even a glimmer in her eye. In fact, I suspect I am a DES baby due to the nine months of nausea I put her through while pregnant with me. And, believe me, she works that one into the ground.
Currently, she struggles with constant pain (to name only one challenge), due to a combination, we suspect, from degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia and nerve damage from an accident many years ago. I think there are probably even more factors like medication side effects, nutrition (she loves her convenience foods) and lack of social support (I can’t be everything and animals don’t ‘talk’). The point is that she knows what being on medication is about, simply because this behavior of pill popping is so deeply ingrained into her very being.
So, when she started complaining about acute stomach pain – she has chronic pain, but these new sharp pains were new for her – I began asking her questions. Basically, our conversation today went something like this:
Mom: Boy, my stomach is killing me.
Me: Could it be your ulcer?
Mom: No, this is different. Every time I eat something, I get shooting pain. I just don’t want to eat. And ice cream doesn’t cool things down like it usually does. [Insert my head shake of frustration here – ulcers and dairy don’t mix for her and she knows that.]
Me: Are you accidentally doubling up on your meds (which she does when she forgets to take one) or taking something new?
Mom: I don’t think I’m doing that. [insert another head shake by me] I am on something new, though.
Me: This has been going on for over a month, Mom. Did you call your doctor like you said you would last week?
Mom: Well, I will if it gets worse. It has been better lately. Just keeps coming back. [insert, ...well, you know]
Me: Let me read the bottle, okay?
Mom hands me the bottle and I begin to read off out loud what is stated in the smallest font I’ve ever seen. I read what it is, who the manufacturer is, the dosage and warnings. All appears to be in order with the usual information, but I’m thinking we may want to check with our pharmacist about any prescription interactions. Then, I get to “Take with food.”
Mom: Oh, with food?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this topic is covered in the Living Well workshops offered all over Oregon and Washington. Even though sometimes participants chuckle when I bring up how we can easily misunderstand how to take our medications, this scenario with my mom only proves how taking a minute to read one of a gazillion bottles over again just to be mindful of what we’re taking, why we’re taking it, and, most importantly, how we are to take it is crucially important. When it comes to creative pill popping due to time constraints, lapse in memory or just not wanting to wait to eat, I’m also guilty as charged.
Mom has medications that require some with food and some without, leading her to simply want to organize her regimen that makes it more memory-friendly (not working). This re-organizing, though, causes her to easily confuse the appropriate requirements that allow each medication to do its job as designed. We all do that, don’t we?
Mom’s appointment is this Monday and I gave her a good scolding to prep her for the one waiting for her during her appointment with her doctor. Mine will probably be the more gentle chew out of the two, but she deserves what she will get and her situation will only support the belief among the medical community that patients aren’t taking their medications correctly. They’re right.
For the sake of all of us wanting to be taken seriously by our healthcare providers, we must be mindful every time we take our meds. How irritating is it when we complain something doesn’t work like it is supposed to and some smart a** asks us that inevitable question “Is it plugged in?”
We all need to remember to ask ourselves that same question with the next pill we take~ no matter how experienced we our with our treatment plans, reminding ourselves to pay closer attention to our own self-care behaviors is really important.