Stand up for you
Medical Elder Abuse
February 2, 2023 at 6:29 p.m.
It’s the lucky person who makes it through all their older years without an experience or two of elder abuse. The National Institute on Aging says that most victims of abuse are women, but some men too. The nine types of abuse they outline include everything from physical forms to neglect. There are many possible results running from less obvious ones like withdrawal to injuries, financial losses, and illnesses from neglect or missing medications for problems like bed sores that can cause death.
I’ve been shocked to experience some of these in the medical profession. Shocked partly as I consider myself a strong and articulate woman and because I’ve had such good relationships in this area: a 45-year span with a dentist, and two doctors I’ve spent 23 years with each. While they were capable of making errors, those have been good friendships as well as professional connections.
My first abuse experience was with a mammogram technician, and I was only 54, so not thinking of it as “elder abuse.” Like most women, I’d had numerous breast X-rays. Now, they are not my favorite way to spend an afternoon, but I put my attention on the benefit of having it done and on creating a pleasant interaction with the medical people involved. I’ve found that most medical people are really grateful for that attitude.
However, the tech I’ve mentioned was not having success doing the process and, shockingly, was blaming me for the numerous retakes. She was both verbally and physically rough with me. Being pinned by the breast in a room alone with someone who was snapping at me and kicking at my feet was scary. I felt trapped with someone who wanted to hurt me. I did report this, though I was told that no one else had complained of that locality or person. Whether that was true or not was beyond my ability to discover.
A few years later, I was taking a cardio test that required running on a treadmill and then lying down to be metered. I followed all the rules and was told that I’d have only 45 seconds to get to the table. It was easily reachable. I had no reason to think I couldn’t do that in less time. However, when I completed the run and began to move quickly to the table, one of the men running the test, grabbed me and shoved me rapidly down on the table. None of that seemed at all necessary. My husband was actually in the room and shocked too by the behavior. Because he was there, I didn’t feel afraid, just unnecessarily “handled.”
Recently, I had an endoscopy. Expected only pleasantness and good treatment as I’d had a previous endoscopy and colonoscopy there that had included a lot of laughing and nice people. The endoscopy began that way, but as I was being hooked up to everything, a tech put on the BP cuff. It tightened more than I’d ever experienced before. I mentioned it to the tech, and he said it would get better now. Instead, it tightened further and the area under the cuff became quite hot. NOW, this was NOT the arm where the medication was going to be administered. And it had not been given in the other arm yet either. The third time the cuff became so tight and hot, I reported it to the tech, thinking this might be something that should be addressed. His curt response was, “Well, that’s how it’s going to be.”
Having some medical background, myself, I was shocked. That’s not the way to respond to patient discomfort. If he’d only said, “Oh, sorry. I don’t think we can change that.” Or just something reassuring or with a humane attitude. I did report this and discovered he was new and untrained, and I could request not having him at subsequent tests.
A couple of months later, I went to a dentist I’d seen for a cleaning and a couple of fillings. One of my crowns had come out and needed to be replaced. Of course, I knew that slipping that quick process into his schedule made the day tighter. I came in thanking them for getting me in, and when he told me I should have a new crown (due to a hole in it), I jumped to agree with him as I’d seen the hole too and thought it might require a new crown. I did want to share with him that the tooth behind the crowned one was a wisdom tooth and had been sensitive when the initial crown was put in. As soon as I said, “That’s a wisdom tooth behind the crown—” he interrupted me to joke to his two attendants that “Inquiring minds want to know.” Needless to say, I didn’t finish my request to be careful of that tooth.I did feel that laughing at me with his staff was really inappropriate. After getting the crown resettled, the dentist spoke to me briefly about the new crown, telling me there was a new material used for crowns that would be sturdier. I was pleased to hear that and said so. The dentist then shocked me by wrinkling his brow and angrily shouting, “You’ll do whatever you want to, of course, but that should be done.” Then he stormed off, leaving me wondering if he could possibly be trusted to do dental work in my mouth.
I have to admit that I was tempted to go to his reviews and share this information with others in my Grays Harbor community. I haven’t done it and hope I won’t be sorry that I’m thinking of giving him another chance to act like a good dentist.
Be aware that accepting abuse at any level is a dangerous practice. The more you allow yourself to be discounted, ignored, mistreated, the more it can happen.
We all owe it to ourselves to stand up against bullies, as well as to all the others who may fall prey to those who treat us as aging targets for their anger.
Ariele Huff hosts the Sharing Stories segment and has done Writing Corner and collected poems for Poetry Corner for 23 years. She teaches ZOOM and online classes including Write about Your Life and Ancient Healing Tools for Modern Stress. Connect at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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