Have things changed?
Do you find yourself asking friends or family that question? It has come up in a few different contexts. The other day I was visiting with a friend. She, like me, is involved in the care of her elderly mother who has faced a myriad of health issues. She was telling me about her mother’s frustration with her television set – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes she can get the channels she wants, sometimes she can’t. I know from experience with my mom it can be hard to sort out the source of the problem – is it the equipment? is it the technology? Which part of the technology? Is it our mother? I am not terrible when it comes to troubleshooting cable, the internet, and equipment, but I am no tech geek either. I can manage, but how is an 89-year-old or a 92-year-old supposed to navigate it? I have an idea! Senior living centers should have staff specifically devoted to tech support (separate from maintenance) – someone residents can call when their remote no longer changes the channel or their iPad freezes. It would save so many frustrating calls to family members who aren’t nearby or can’t just drop in and fix it. I imagine many people would be willing to pay something extra for the service.
In an effort to make things better, my friend went to Best Buy and bought a new t.v. and arranged for delivery. While I was visiting with her, the t.v. was supposed to be delivered and installed. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. There must have been six phone calls before it was finally determined that the person showing up to do the installation was not the same person who was delivering the set. The installation guy arrived before the t.v., and they had no record of the delivery being scheduled!
In between being beyond annoyed, we had to laugh. The whole thing was preposterous. My friend was sure she had been clear about the delivery address (at first the person on the phone was heading to her house, which is not where her mother lives). Nothing got accomplished – leaving my friend with another series of telephone calls to straighten it out.
Was it always so complicated? Were deliveries routinely screwed up? These days I am so relieved when anything goes as planned. But, maybe I’m just older and more impatient. Maybe I’m focusing on the errors and not all the times things happen the way they should.
I have raised the question before – does all the technology we use make our lives easier? Or, does it introduce more opportunities for things to get screwed up – and make it more difficult for us to get to the bottom of the problem to fix it.
I am responsible for overseeing my mother’s medical care. It makes sense that I play that role since my husband is a doctor and neither my brothers nor their spouses have that expertise. The one problem with this is that I live about 3.5 hours away from Mom. Generally speaking, I am able to work things out to accompany her to appointments. The thing that has been more challenging has been keeping her medicines and medical supplies in stock. I can’t tell you how many times there have been problems. Sometimes the issue is one of supply – the pharmacy to which the prescription was sent (electronically) is out of stock of the particular drug. Do they call me? No, apparently they communicate with the doctor (or maybe, depending on who you believe, they communicate with no one). I have explained to everyone and anyone involved in Mom’s care that they should call, email or text me – in fact in many cases my number is the only one they have. And, yet, I still don’t get notified.
And, when did supplies get to be an issue? I had a conversation with my daughter the other day while she was in search of eye drops, amoxicillin and children’s Tylenol for her baby who had conjunctivitis and an ear infection. She spent hours on the phone calling pharmacies. Finally, after a whole lot of back and forth with pharmacists and the doctor’s office, she called me triumphant. She scored the needed drugs!
Going back to my travails with keeping my mother’s supply of medications.: another issue is, not surprisingly, insurance coverage. I am told that her sensor (Mom has diabetes and finger sticks are just not practical anymore) is not covered by Medicare. Then when the drugstore receives the prescription for it, perhaps reasonably, doesn’t fill it (figuring the patient will likely want an alternative that is covered) and sends an email to the doctor letting her know. Eventually I get informed, and I tell them, just fill it. This happens every month. I believe that the sensor probably could be covered but I would need to appeal the decision and go through the hoops and loops. And they’d probably make me do it every time! I think they are counting on wearing me out – and they have been successful. I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole; I just pay for it. Fortunately, it isn’t crazy expensive.
There are so many layers to this. Sometimes I think systems are deliberately set up to not serve us. Or perhaps, as drugstores and doctors’ offices are bought up by corporate entities, the systems are designed, and the decisions are made too far away from where the service is delivered. Something is lost. When entities were smaller, they could be more responsive. Maybe that accounts for some of the loss in customer service.
Or maybe things aren’t actually that different. As I consider this, I wonder if I’m just an old fogey. People are people, after all. What do you think?