Don't leave it too late to get to know your GP
David, who is 60, is a lovely hospitable, gregarious gentleman. He has worked hard all of his life, has grown children, a beautiful house and money. He was and still is a bit of a flirt, but charming and full of life. He has dementia. He doesn’t remember his children’s names but can tell you that he once played Rugby at a national level. He has coffee at the same cafe every morning, smiles at the owners, talks incessantly and laughs with the customers, but he can’t remember what he drinks. David’s dementia is slowly getting worse; he can’t negotiate crowds, ride on escalators, cross the street, prepare food or dress himself anymore. He has a carer who attends to this.
As a professional involved in David’s care I had concerns about his decreasing health. I rang his GP and shared my concern and asked if I should make an appointment to have him reviewed. His GP did not want to hear my concerns but stated that he should be in a nursing home. I was shocked at this response; I informed him that David was safe with his carers and otherwise was in good health and enjoying life. Once again his GP was uninterested and stated that he was a risk – and should be put somewhere!
Not really prepared for this response I thanked him for his time and quickly ended the conversation. I wasn’t sure what “put somewhere” meant, and how David would continue to enjoy his lifestyle in a nursing home at 60. I started thinking about my own GP and how he would react to this situation. I didn’t know! When it came to making lifestyle and health decisions for myself or my family, would he support my choices? I wasn’t sure! I have known my GP for 10 years – and I was worried what his reaction would be. I started asking my friends and colleagues how well they knew their GP’s – the person that they trusted with their life. Surprisingly very few people could answer my question.