Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stop the Politics

I love my family. I really do. But there are certain topics we just don't see eye to eye on--at all. I find these topics to crop up when I speak to my parents. They live in a conservative town and have very conservative views. I don't mind that they have more "right-wing" ideals than I do, except when they tell me that my own, more liberal views, are wrong. Sadly, that happens often. Maybe it has to do with them being parents--they feel as though they can tell me what to think. Or maybe that's just how they are. Yet they're the only parents I have, so no matter what their views, I love them. And I try to accept them as they are. (That's very hard, don't you know?)

Sometimes, though, I find myself rolling my eyes at some of the gems that come out of their mouths. I guess that is my way of saying I don't agree with what they say. Perhaps I should try a less judgmental way of saying it, considering I always say that I'm not one to judge. But I'm only human, right? Anyway, here's a lovely example of what I mean by way of a conversation I had with my dad yesterday.
Dad: Your mom had her check up today.
Me: Oh yeah? How did it go.
Dad: She's all good.
Me: Great.
Dad: But do you know what the doctor asked her?
Me: No, what?
Dad: The doctor asked if she had any guns in her house.
Me: Oh really? Huh. That's a good question.
Dad: Do you know why the doctor asked her that?
Of course, I had my suspicions as to why the doctor asked that question. I suspected that it had to do with safety and was a question that should be asked for more elderly people (sorry, Dad, but you fall into that category now). But I had a feeling what dad was going to say. In fact, I knew what he was going to say before he said it. Despite the trepidation I felt in my gut, I went ahead and bit the bullet. I asked the question he wanted me to ask.
Me: Well Dad, why did the doctor ask her that?
Dad: Because the government wants to know!
You guessed it. My dad is not on board with the government right now. Actually, when anyone on the Democratic ticket is in the Oval office, he's not on board with the government. And the current president? Well, my parents think he's a socialist. I have my own misgivings about our current president, but heck, I'm not sure he's going to try to find out who owns guns by asking doctors to do his bidding. I'm sure the government has other, sneakier, ways to unearth all the information they want on guns, who owns them, and what they do with them. (Now, I'm starting to sound like Dad.)

Just to see what was out there, on the internet, I did a little search on patients and guns. The first hit was a Snopes.com article denying the claim that "Medicare regulations require that doctors ask patients whether they own guns." Further investigation showed that many articles exist (mostly written by people supporting the right) on how the government now falsely has the right to ask about gun ownership. It sounds to me like the media has pushed this topic to the forefront, including Rush Limbaugh, who stated the following: "Now doctors are being ordered, instructed to talk to patients and get information from them about gun ownership."

I thought to myself, let's get to the bottom of this. Who would know if a doctor was being ordered to do this? Well of course, let's ask my sister, the nurse practitioner. In case you don't know, a nurse practitioner is not "just a nurse." He or she has completed an advanced education, both clinical and didactic, beyond what the RN degree requires. The NP can (in some states) work independently, without the supervision of a physician, although (and you can correct me if I'm wrong, Gina) I believe in many practices, the NP is a part of a group of physicians and other NPs such that, if the need arises, the physician can be summoned. The NP can prescribe and take care of you much like the physician or physician's assistant (PA) can do. If a doctor is required to ask about guns, then an NP would be, too.

So I called my sister and recounted my story. To which she replied, "It's a safety issue. We're not required to ask that question, but we should ask that question out of concern for a patient's safety."

Just as I thought.

Gina didn't have the time yesterday to give me a more thorough, medically oriented answer, but my other sister, Tara, did. She is a social worker who works with many PTSD survivors. Here's what Tara said:
It is ethical to ask people of all generations [about a gun in the home] given the fact that suicide is an epidemic in this country. Assessing for firearms is especially important given the fact that every 17 minutes an elderly person in the US kills themselves.  At the VA we ask everyone and if they have a firearm, we give them a free quality gun lock for enhanced safety.

Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in the young and is beginning to trend more in the geriatric population. People think if you ask someone about suicide that you will “plant the seed” so to speak. This is not the case,  by not asking the question you are allowing the individual to ruminate on their own time alone. Isolation will only increase this as a risk factor. I applaud her physician for asking.

This isn’t about squashing rights and you know I’m a gun toting 2nd Amendment defender. This is about communication, education and prevention.

Well said, Tara, well said.

I'm not really sure what this post set out to do. I'm not trying to slam my dad for spreading what I think might be "inaccurate beliefs" but I'm also tired of letting conversations like this slide under the rug around here. If and when he reads this, Dad will probably mutter something to the effect of, "Hasn't she heard the old adage about respecting your elders?" And when he does so, I'd like him to know that yes, I can respect those elders. But those elders sometimes need to back down and to walk away from pushing their own thoughts onto everyone else. The elders need to remember that an independent mind is just that: a mind that gets to make its own decision, based on the information around me. And one other thing. This elder in particular needs to stop the politics.

Let me say again, that I love my family.

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