DEAR ABBY: I work in a doctor's office where some of our elderly patients are dropped off by a transportation company. These patients often have no one with them or meeting them in the office.
If the person is coherent, it's not a problem. But when the patient isn't, then he or she is unable to fill out the forms or give us insurance information. Sometimes the people may not even know why they are in our office. Of course, this means they are unable to discuss their problem with the doctor. We assist these patients as much as we can, helping them fill out the forms, etc., but this is a busy office, and it causes other patients to be delayed as well as the doctor.
We don't blame the transportation services, but we are asking that someone accompany the patient and be prepared to fill out our forms even if the patient has been there before because the information must be updated every year.
If the patient has a designated power of attorney, then that's who should accompany the patient and be sure to bring the power of attorney papers along.
It's heartbreaking to see this scenario. We can't provide proper care if the patient can't communicate the problem to us and the doctor. I hope nursing homes and loved ones will read this and do what's best for the patient. -- AN OFFICE THAT CARES IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR OFFICE THAT CARES: You have raised an important issue, and thank you for pointing it out. It would be a good idea for doctors to require that patients who are unable to speak for themselves have an escort.
Ideally, the patient's family should see that their family member has someone in attendance. Some assisted-living facilities do send an escort or an aide. However, if that is not possible, then a case management program should be set up by a social worker, either through the nursing home or the hospital.