The Doctor Is In...Dr. Edward Hanzelik

In Speaking Up For Mom, the author honestly and openly shares her experiences of helping with her mom’s health care needs and the intense drama that unfolds in the last three months of her mother’s life. Her role in this came as a complete surprise, as it often does, and she describes herself as feeling “clueless” trying to navigate the challenges posed by the medical care system—which was the only place she could turn to in that moment of great uncertainty about her mother’s survival.

As a doctor, I first started taking care of patients in medical school over forty years ago. I have seen many people in very similar situations. In fact, any one of us could find ourselves in a similar predicament at any moment, with no warning. Someone we love and care about can suddenly be struck with a major change in their health—and you or I may be the only person in a position to help with the critical decisions that will decide whether this dear person lives or not or with how much disability. I know this is a scary thought that most people do not even want to verbalize. But it can and does happen.

Usually, it is unexpected. As we get older—in our 70’s, 80’s and 90’s—we are less robust and more susceptible to a surprise threat to our health. It could be an accident, chest pain, heart attack, high fever, infection, seizure, sudden shortness of breath, a system not working like speech, or the use of an arm or a leg.

Speaking Up For Mom describes very poignantly what it was like for the author to suddenly be thrust into a situation where she was the spokesperson for her mother. She was left with doubts, questions, regrets and a strong feeling that it could have gone better. She is writing this book to help others, like you, see what she experienced so you can be more prepared than she was.

I agree that there is quite a bit more we can do to have better results from the medical system. I feel the most important factor in the outcome of care is the clarity and strength of the caregivers and the people making the medical decisions to do what’s best for the patient. But the medical environment is quite intimidating and the decision makers need support and even training to handle their responsibilities effectively.

I have been asked to contribute to Speaking Up For Mom and I consider it an honor to do so. As the author tells her story, I will contribute my perspective as a doctor and I will look at what could have been different. How could this experience have been more satisfying and less painful? My hope is that you will discover options that you have if you ever find yourself in a similar situation (“God forbid,” as people say when considering such a possibility.)

I know it is possible to feel at peace, to feel clear that you have done everything possible as a patient representative and to be gratified that you were able to make the best decisions for your loved one. I hope my commentary will help instill that confidence in you.

Dr. Hanzelik