Why Getting Old or Sick in America Doesn't Pay (And What You Can Do to Avoid It)

My mom has been through the ringer with doctors, Medicare, secondary insurance, and medical professionals. It's as if the left hand has no clue as to what the right hand is doing. To me, health care shouldn't be this complicated.
02/07/2014 04:06pm ET | Updated April 9, 2014
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On Jan. 12, 2014, my mom slipped on a patch of ice by her brother's, went into diabetic shock and cracked her left knee replacement. Luckily, my sister was with her and rushed her to the emergency room. And it was downhill from there.

The ER doctor insisted our mom hit her head, which explained why she went into shock and suffered from short term memory loss. I'm not a doctor, but if someone hits their head, I would think they'd have a goose egg on the back of their head, and blood would spew from their head. Imagine the look on the ER doctor's face when my sister disagreed with him while tossing out medical terms at the same time. That's right. She works in the medical field. The ER doctor was stunned.

A CAT scan was ordered and my mom's left leg was placed in an immobilizer brace. She kept repeating herself over and over again. My sister and I asked her questions such as, "What year is it?" She didn't know. But she knew Jan. 12 was her godchild's birthday.

My mom was admitted to the seventh floor of the hospital around 6 p.m. Her nurse was nice but clearly overworked and tired. She was paged over and over again and couldn't get another nurse to help her. Perhaps this is why my mom's chart was incorrectly marked with "regular meal plan" instead of "diabetic meal plan."

Many instances disturbed me about my mom's hospital stay. For instance, no one addressed her short-term memory loss. Again, I'm not a doctor, but if a patient suffers short-term memory loss, I'd find out why and let the family know the reason, too. Another scary moment was that one of the workers in my mom's primary care office didn't know the fax number to the 7th floor of the hospital. I'm not a medical professional, but I have common sense. I would have called the hospital and asked for the fax number if the doctor's office didn't have it.

Getting my mom released from the hospital was a nightmare. It would have been easier for me to pick her up in my car; I have a large car. Instead, the hospital ordered an ambulance. She arrived home at 11 p.m. with a walker that had to be returned to the hospital. No problem. I bought her a walker the next day. She would have to wait another day for the home care provider company to deliver a wheelchair and porta-potty.

Next were visits from an occupational and physical therapist. The guys were nice, until they found out that my mom saw her ortho doctor on Jan. 18 and he didn't send her home with any orders for them. My mom didn't know about this, and I certainly didn't know she was supposed to have orders.

Finally, trying to get my mom another knee brace, one her ortho doctor wrote a script for, was an adventure. One of the local medical supply companies couldn't schedule her for an appointment until Feb. 10, the day of her follow up visit with her ortho doctor. I called another company and not only did they have appointments available, they had the brace. Victory! Not so fast. Because of issues with people lying to Medicare about what medical equipment they received in the past five years, Daniel (name changed) at the medical company had to contact Melinda (name changed) at the company's corporate office and she had to fax another script to the ortho doctor for him to sign. Why? Because the staff at the medical equipment company had to verify that my mom truly needed the brace. Plus, my mom had to sign a form stating that she would be charged for the brace if she lied that she hadn't had one in the past five years.

The ortho doctor signed the second script from the medical equipment company and his office staff faxed the form to the medical equipment company's headquarters instead of the local office in Ohio. Again, I'm not a medical professional, but if someone faxed me a form and stated, "Fax this back to our local office at such and such number," I would have done so.

My mom has been through the ringer with doctors, Medicare, secondary insurance, and medical professionals. It's as if the left hand has no clue as to what the right hand is doing. To me, health care shouldn't be this complicated.

America's health care system needs a major overhaul. Nurses are overworked and tired or worse because older workers are forced into retirement or laid off. Medicine prices are off of the charts. Most don't realize that the active ingredient in a medication they take costs about 60 cents or $1. Pharmaceutical companies' markup said medication to $105.00 or more dollars. Nice profit! It's no wonder that health care is a trillion dollar industry.

My mom's story is why it doesn't pay to get old or sick in America. Nurses and doctors are overworked and tired. Insurance companies go back and forth with hospitals and doctors, arguing about who's going to pay what. And then if you're on Medicare (my mom is), the U.S. government gets involved. You can forget about receiving speedy service or medicine and medical equipment you need.

What Can You do to Avoid Getting Sick and Old in America

1. Eat clean and healthy foods and exercise.

2. Surround yourself with healthy and positive people.

3. Get off of your medicines!

4. Stop smoking, drinking excessively and doing drugs.

5. Get back to nature.

6. Learn how to meditate and clear your mind.

7. Take responsibility for your life.

8. Seek counseling from a life coach, therapist or psychologist.

9. Know your rights regarding health care in America.

10. Travel every year and expand your horizons.

The next time you get sick or slip on a piece of ice, try to heal yourself as much as you can. Focus and visualize yourself as being healed. When you see your doctor, make sure you know your rights as a patient. Question anything and everything that doesn't seem right. And when you stay in a hospital and someone calls to ask how your stay and treatment was and/or how your care was, be honest. Don't hold back. Be nice but firm because hospital administrators can't make improvements to the hospital and staff when they're kept in the dark.