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Are You Unhappy With Your Elderly Loved One’s Doctor?

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
March 01, 2012

Question: My mother is 85 and was told she has stage 3 breast cancer. She doesn't seem to understand exactly what is going on and is passive. We're not that pleased with her doctors. I don't want to be pushy, but how can we help her?

Answer: Thank you for writing. I know how challenging a cancer diagnosis is for the patient and family.  In addition to being a healthcare professional, I have also been a patient. In 1999, I was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. I am well today.

People react differently to a cancer diagnosis. Some people want to know everything, while others do not want to know any details because the information frightens them. In your mother’s case, it appears she needs someone to be her advocate; a person to learn about the illness and take charge of her care. Since your mother is very passive, if possible, she must always have a family member or friend accompany her to doctor meetings. I would suggest speaking with an oncology social worker to help organize her care and find resources.  There are many wonderful breast cancer organizations more than willing to help. Cancer is a family illness and I am sure you are experiencing stress.  The resource organizations also help caregivers.

You mentioned you are not happy with her doctors. Are they poor communicators? Are you concerned she is not getting proper treatment? It is important that your mother get the best care possible. If you do not feel she is getting excellent care, this article from the American Society of Clinical Oncology can help you locate a new oncologist:

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Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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