Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why are Medical Facilities so Inaccessible?

Skip has asked me a few times to get our dentist appointments scheduled as our cleanings are overdue. (Skip does do most of the scheduling/phone calling, but I handle dentist appointments due to complexities with my work meeting calendar.) I keep not getting around to it, which we were both chalking up to my tendency to procrastinate. But I have now realized, when the need to call and make the appointment flitted through my brain, that I dread going, so I keep putting off the call.

I don't dread it for all the usual reasons one might dread the dentist, primarily the fear of pain. It's because it's so difficult to get Skip in and out of the dentist chair. There was a time when transferring from wheelchair to dentist chair wasn't too difficult, that is no longer the case. Skip's legs are completely dead and they don't even have much spasticity to help with standing. I don't do much transferring or lifting of Skip anymore and I suspect I'm not as strong as I once was as a result; and I'm out of practice. Plus, the dentist's work rooms are bloody small, so even getting the chair in a position from which to make the transfer is not an easy undertaking.

Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation when it comes to doctors' offices and other medical facilities. We've encountered ...

Gynecologists with examining tables that aren't height-adjustable. When you find a height-adjustable table, no one helps with the transferring or preparation for the exam. EKG tests administered on a high gurney with no one to help transfer a wheelchair user. Doctors' examining rooms with fixed tables that cannot be lowered, so Skip cannot be examined in them, but must remain in her chair for the appointment. Examining rooms that are so tiny a wheelchair, doctor and guest can't all fit. MRI machines that require you to lie on a long, narrow device with no handholds and only a helpful technician to help with a dangerous and dicey transfer.

Even if you call ahead to find out more about the setup and to ensure there will be help in transferring for the test, it's typical to find that the technician has not the slightest advance knowledge of the need for help and thus has to scrounge around for burly aides to help with transfers.

I could go on, but I'm sure everyone gets the point.

This situation makes my blood boil. I am not shy about providing pointed commentary concerning the absurdity of the situation when we encounter such barriers. But, I try to remember that the technician delivering the test or doctor giving the exam are not the individuals who determined the room's setup, so I don't get too cranky.

I'm currently at wit's end on this. We're now at the point of Skip's disability and my strength/transferring ability that some tests and examinations will no longer be possible.

Any good ideas on ways to find dentist offices that have relatively accessible work rooms? Unfortunately, if you look for handicapped accessible dentists on the internet, you find offices that are accessible purely from the perspective of building access, but not the finer points of the work room where the dentist does his/her work.


Herrad said...

HGi Cranky,
Found myself nodding in recognition all the way through your post.

zoomdoggies said...

Everything you've described is painfully familiar! I got to my family practitioner for most routine stuff -- she has two (two!) siblings with MS, so she totally gets it -- but her office is tiny. I can barely creep in and out in my power chair without leaving dings in the wall. Or dents in my chair. Even though they put me in the largest of three microscopic exam rooms, they have to take all the movable furniture out first. The doctor, my partner and I are squeezed in, shoulder to shoulder, and nobody is sitting on the exam table.

Mammogram? Don't even get me started...!

Cranky said...

Herrad - thanks for your note. I'm sorry that you could relate to my rant.

Zoom - greetings! Read your blog last night. It's very good, I look forward to reading more. I hear you on the mammograms as well. I left out Skip's latest misadventures in that regard ...

steve said...

I've been schlepping BR in and out of his chair by myself ever since he dropped below 150. Most offices offer kind assistance, but none are required to do so. Do you have any beefy, trustworthy neighbors that might be willing to join you on medical visits?

In San Francisco, the GP's office was too small for BR's chair. The doctor was kind enough to make a house call every other month.

Cranky said...

Steve - your idea of bringing another person to appts is a good one. I'm going to think about who we could draft and what prep they'll need. Perhaps our intrepid aide, MW.

Nice to have a doc who'll actually come to your home!

Patrick@Caregivingly Yours said...

One of my favorite brick walls to just repeatedly run into over and over again. I have been told "liability insurance" drives this issue of transferring a patient by staff at an out patient office of any kind. Who really knows.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

Cranky said...

Patrick - yep, they have the issues of needing to protect their staff. Guess that goes back to Steve's suggestion of bringing strong, reliable friends along.

the believer said...

Hey,this is the one thing that really puts me over. everything from the parking lot and elevators to the tiny doctor's offices. ever need to get an exray? ridiculous, but I digress. just a thought about the dentists- i once asked my mom's doctor and my own dentist. one of them suggested going to one of the local schools- like BU- the offices are definitely accessible and I think they see people in much more open spaces, with lots of people around- students and their professors/instructors. I also wonder why she'd necessarily need to transfer- does she have a wheelchair that reclines?