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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Finding a doctor

One of the OARS group members expressed some difficulty she was having in trying to find a doctor to treat her alcoholic husband. She surmised that he is in end-stage, but has nothing to go on except what she has read in this blog and her own instincts. In a rare moment of sanity, her husband told her he wanted to go to the doctor if she could find one that would see him. Of course, he did not want one who would insist upon detox or rehab.

Mrs. X began her search and quickly realized that her task was harder than she had thought it would be. After several days of phone calls, she was about
to give up and tell her husband she had failed, when her husband announced that he would like to go to the hospital. She called the paramedics and was transported to the local emergency room.

Mr. X was examined and admitted for pancreatitis and several other alcohol related maladies. But to really figure out what the doctors were telling her, she had to go home and refer to her Wikipedia. That was how she learned to get the answers to her questions and understand all the medical jargon.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, she asked me how I was able to find a doctor who would treat Riley while he was still drinking. Well, Mrs. X, I can tell you without a doubt that it was certainly not easy. When I tried and failed, just as she had, so many times, I decided I must find out answers for myself. I did what anyone who uses a computer would do. I consulted with Dr. Google.  In turn that lead me to the NIAAA website where I read everything I could about alcoholism from the biological point of view. I took those terms, conditions, etc. and plugged them into Wikipedia. The further I dug, the more there was to learn.

When I thought I had learned the basics of what I needed to know, I compiled the information into a matter-of-fact order. Then there was more research. Only this time, I researched for physicians who would be more open minded when it came to alcoholism. I looked at things like, the doctor’s age, where he/she went to school, military experience, specialties, etc. In short, I learned everything I could the doctors before I ever picked up the phone. I knew I was seeking a doctor between 45-55 in age, preferably served as a military medical professional, experience dealing with alcoholic patients, and a friendly attitude.

After getting my list together, I began making phone calls. I asked straight out, if the doctor had served in the armed forces and if they had actively drinking alcoholics as patients. If I got the right answers, I asked if I could make an appointment for my husband. When asked if my husband was interested in detox or rehab, my answer was always no. However, I made sure there was a logical reason for him to see the doctor – i.e. I suspected he had injured his shoulder and that injury needed treatment. I never said, that I expected the doctor to treat the results of the alcoholism – there was always some other issue that needed to be treated.  Sometimes it was that he was congested or he was having many nosebleeds. Remember, you don’t want to say that you want them to take his alcoholism away. We all know that’s not a realistic request.

Now that you have the doctor’s appointment make sure to take a copy of your medical power of attorney with you for their files. The POA is a “must have” for anyone who is involved in any type of caring for an alcoholic. Once that piece of paper is in his file, you will have access to all the information that the doctor has including lab reports. The lab reports may be vital to you in calculating his projected life expectancy using either the Child-Pugh or MELD Scores. Also take with you the medical, detox and rehab histories, family medical history, and, all the basic information.

Once you are inside the examining room and have a chance for a face-to-face with the doctor, remember to treat the doctor with respect and speak to him in a respectful manner. This should be a no-brainer, but even I often have wanted to scream at the doctor and say “Are you kidding me right now???” But, hold your tongue. Even if this doctor may be a bit condescending, remember that you want something from this person and to best way to get it is to use honey not vinegar (as the old saying goes). When you get home, you can call a friend and tell her/him about the stupid doctor, but for now, in this moment, he is the king of your world.

Ask questions. Even if you know the answer, ask every question you think is relevant. Asking questions is a way of showing interest and the desire to work WITH the medical community. The alcoholic may not be able to do this, he/she may not be able to show respect – it’s up to you. You are the sane one and you hold the key to getting what you want.

Oh… What is it that you want?  Make sure you know what you want before you ever get to the doctor’s office. When asked, “How can I help you today?” One of the best answers is “I have some concerns about how my husband/wife’s drinking is affecting his overall physical condition.” State that he/she has had some issues and you are not sure if it’s part of the drinking or not. If not, maybe those issues should be addressed.” Make sure you convey that you are interested keeping this person as healthy as possible even though your spouse may not want to become sober. Let it be known that you want straight-forward honest answers even if the truth might seem harsh or hurtful. You do understand that he will die if he doesn’t stop and you are prepared for the inevitable but in the meantime all the other bumps and boo-boos may need to be addressed. Ask what you can do to make things easier. If you want him to be considered for hospice – ask for it. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Now that you’ve developed a relationship with this doctor you may be surprised how supportive he and his staff may be. It has always worked for me, so I hope it works for you.

WORKBOOK for CARETAKERS
of END-STAGE ALCOHOLICS
BINDER FORMAT

The perfect way to tract your alcoholic’s health with charts, graphs, record and history keeping. Also contains explanations and definitions of a variety of alcohol related health issues; resource listing; and instructions on how to use the compiled information.

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Includes the printed pages from the CD version;
Three ring binder;
Section dividers with printed labels;
Pocketed inserts for loose papers;
The CD version of the book
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To get your copy go here:

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