Health professionals: Beware!

Featured article - 05 June 2016
By Sydney, NMCF member

I am writing this blog, while still recovering from being prescribed, well intentionally, yet inappropriately, an additional drug, Sertraline 50mg, in addition to my current Alzheimer's medication, i.e. Donepezil 10mg. I recently took the prescribed drug for 10 days. In that time, I suffered an increasingly zombie-like state, compared to my mainly bright, positive, demeanour, loss of appetite, lack of motivation, tiredness and increasing difficulty / inclination to verbally communicate and even to write the simplest emails. While taking the above medication, in addition to the symptoms experienced, referred to above, even the daily walk with my dog that we both look forward to so much, had to be restricted compared to normal and even then included long periods of resting / dozing, while sitting on my shooting stick. My twice weekly swims could not take place either. On the eleventh day, I took the decision, by then supported by my wife, to stop taking the drug concerned.

Six days later I am now starting to feel like my normal self and able to function at approximately 90% of my previous capabilities and am back in the pool. The night sleep pattern, while greatly improved, has not yet returned to its normal, relatively undisturbed, state. It might be easy for the reader to jump to a wrong judgement, regarding the efficacy of the health professional's judgement, involved in my being prescribed the drug concerned. However, I should point out that, there were particular circumstances that led to this happening. I do not have any criticism of the Consultant concerned, as she exercised her clinical judgement based, necessarily, on the information provided for her over the telephone by my wife, prior to my next outpatient appointment with her, having previously been re-referred to her by my GP. Without going into any further detail regarding the decision making process, referred to above, I will, in future, insist on the following:- That for all future appointments regarding myself, I have a private, one to one consultation, without my wife present, on each appointment with both GP and Consultant. It will be fine for this be followed, immediately, by a joint consultation with my wife present and they with her privately, if they so wish.

The key thing for me, as the patient, is, for both my own sake / peace of mind, to assist the doctors concerned in reaching an, accurate, informed, clinical decision, regarding my condition / treatment. I will inform both my Consultant and GP of the action I have taken regarding the medication concerned, at my next routine appointment. I may, in the meantime, email them regarding the same, for information, though at the time of writing, I am not moved to do so while still in recovery mode. So, I flag up the following warning to clinicians and health professionals:- Dementia / Alzheimer patients, who are still able to communicate their own views and thoughts, should be adequately provided with the opportunity to do so, in confidence / private as necessary. To routinely rely on an understandably, pressurised / stressed, wife (carer), to be always able to provide a clear and accurate assessment / update on the patient's condition, is not fair to either the wife (carer), nor the patient.

The extra 15 minutes involved in the above proposal, will probably lead to a safer and more accurate diagnosis being provided. Likely also, it will help prevent unnecessary, increased health issues for the patient and carer alike. In addition, it will also reduce the potential risk of increased manpower input and financial resources for the NHS!

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