Health Matters,  Life Day By Day,  Retirement

Older and waiting

We all must wait, but when you are older and waiting there is another story! When you are older, waiting can be more difficult. The longer you sit, the harder it is to get up. Of course, I am not talking about myself, I am not that old yet! But there are many people who are older than me and need help getting out of a chair or walking, either with a stick or a wheelie walker.

No more was I aware of being older and waiting when I was at my ophthalmologist this week. The waiting room is long, seats all around the walls, we are all familiar with this! My “One & Only” (O&O) said “there are no young people here”! The room was full and as I looked around I thought we are here for a long wait!

We went to the only seats available, near the television monitor. John Denver was playing. I saw John Denver in Brisbane decades ago in Brisbane. I always enjoyed his songs. But after a while at 10am in the morning it got tiresome. We took the first opportunity to move seats to the other end of the waiting room. John Denver still singing away but it was not as loud.

Again, I looked around the waiting room. There was not much movement, we all just sat around, reading or staring into space. New people arrived, another wheelie walker. Usually, I wait around 10 minutes until my first procedure. But not today! Forty-five minutes later the faint sound, though clearly recognisable voice of John Denver singing, repeatedly. The video must have been set to re-play. Fifteen minutes later, down the other end of the waiting room a receptionist with a bright voice said to everyone “sorry for the wait”. More information would have been helpful at this point. I was beginning to think of asking for a discount, given that I had to wait so long. Even after the Medicare rebate the cost was close to $300.

I watched as all the older people continued to sit and wait. Then from another door out came another wheelie walker. His wife went to the counter to help him as when he sat down on the seat of the wheelie walker all he could see was the timber front of the counter. He stood up for a minute and then sat down again. A procedure for a later date was being arranged. The waiting time for this older couple was lengthy. Looks like there are new administration staff in the practice and a few are learning the ropes! The older couple were at the counter for at least 15-20 minutes. I wondered why it could take so long. My mind wandered back to the waiting room of a local surgeon. When we arranged a day-hospital procedure, it took minutes.

The clock is ticking away as we all wait! Then an older woman, her procedure over, arrives at the front counter with her wheelie walker to fix up her account. She was very small, reminded me of my 91-year-old mother, around 4’ 9” – all the older people reading this will know how high or short that is! This lady’s head was barely above the top of the counter. She handed over her card for payment and then whispered her pin code to the receptionist as it was too high for her to manage. A phone call was made for her son to pick her up and she took off. The doorman, my O&O (his new role), ensured she got out of the door with her wheelie walker, unscathed.

Time was marching on and it was time for me to march up to the front counter. Not too much marching, as we were only a few steps away and we could hear every personal conversation. An hour later and my good mood fading fast I kindly asked, “how much longer” and mentioned I would be fine to reschedule my appointment. I was told only a few more minutes. I did mention that had I been told of the lengthy wait when I arrived we could have gone to the café for coffee or a walk!

Within minutes, I was whisked away for my first procedure, a field test. After this finished a short wait until I went to another room for other preliminaries. The woman (new to the job) introduced herself as the doctor’s assistant (a very important role) who did a test of my long-range vision, wrote a few notes, took my eye pressure and placed a drop in each eye. When putting the eye drop in my left eye she thought she missed so did it twice again, just to be sure! The drops widen the pupils and they stay dilated like that for some hours. On this occasion my left eye was dilated for the best part of the day! How much was that account again? I asked the reason for the waiting time? The doctor’s assistant said it was due to the first week back after the school holidays. The doctor was away for the school holidays. Note to self: don’t make an appointment in the week following any school holidays. I took the opportunity to mention, that as much as I liked John Denver, after an hour it was very monotonous – comment noted!

I was then taken into a dimmed room (eyes dilated) to wait for the doctor. The time before when I was in the same room – waiting, I thought I had been forgotten. Was everyone having a long morning tea? On this day I looked around the room, checking out all the equipment, watching the computer monitor turn black and wondering whether I should move the mouse to keep it on? There was a button I could have pressed for a code red, if necessary, just to make sure my presence in the room was overlooked. I made a better decision – sit and wait.

Today all my waiting was at the beginning of my appointment and this time it was only a short wait in the room with dimmed lights. After I saw my doctor, a very good ophthalmologist, I returned to the waiting room to pay the account and make my next appointment. The appointment fell right after the Easter school holidays in 2018. As I had made a mental note of avoiding the school holidays, to avoid a repeat of today, I made my appointment for May.

There are lessons that could be learnt from today. What about waiting rooms set up like a lounge room? Water should always be available. A tea and coffee machine, like when we have our car serviced, would make the waiting time more tolerable. Some of us might even turn up early, just for coffee and to read the latest magazines. Maybe this is the reason waiting rooms are generally uncomfortable and unwelcoming.

When I looked around, in the waiting room, observing all the older people, I felt sad. Sad that there was not more respect shown when waiting times are unacceptable. Also, there is much professionals could learn about privacy, confidentiality and having space between their front counter and clients in the waiting space.  I also thought about going back to work, offering my services to the ophthalmologist to be her practice manager. I could teach the receptionists front office etiquette!They would learn how to treat clients well and make them feel welcome and respected.

To be fair to medical practitioners not all of them keep us waiting. When my O&O had surgery for a BCC in the past week he was lying down and prepped for his procedure five minutes before his appointment time. Sometimes, arriving early has its benefits. His physiotherapist, following his shoulder surgery, works well to her time schedule – no waiting there. Also, similarly with his Brisbane surgeon. Why can some medical specialists get it right?

When we are older and waiting we can take a good book to read, an iPad, cross word puzzles or knitting. Also, when you arrive ask how long your wait time will be. If it is an hour, reschedule immediately or go for that walk or coffee. I am not sure whether I should tell you my best kept secret for not waiting at the doctors? Just get the first appointment of the day! My May appointment is for 9am. The receptionist told me to arrive at 8.30am and then I will see the doctor at 9am. Is that an 8.30am appointment? What is the logic in that?



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