Why can't I seem to get any help with my medical issues?

8 answers | Last updated: Jun 30, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

I am a 60 year old military widow, and I fall through every crack in every system out there that I've found. I was never able to have children, family is hours and hours away. Since we were a military family I do not have the friends that could have been around my entire life. Since I am homebound, depressed, in pain, and no help in sight, I don't see the need to continue. I am not suicidal, I just quit caring. Because I still "look" okay, the doctors don't believe me...despite MRIs that show syringomyelia, spinal stenonis, bulging disks, and numerous other problems. Pardon my language but when I go to the bathroom I expect to see concrete since I have fallen through so many cracks. I need help, and none is available. I am not old enough, I am too old, I don't have enough money, I have too much money. And yes, I do see a very good doctor about the depression and she is the only one who is trying to help by providing pain medication because she is the only one who has taken the time to understand the ENTIRE picture. So what do I do, I have to order even groceries off the internet because grocery stores don't care enough to deliver to disabled. I can not be the only one. Or AM I?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Sorry about your tough situation!  It sounds as though you are really suffering.  Please know that there are many people out there who are fed up with our current health care system.  Even our President understands that our health care system needs to be fixed.

You say that you are too young (for Medicare) and too old (probably for insurance plans).  You have too much money for Medicaid and not enough to pay for insurance.  How frustrating!   First, you should try and call your local health department to see if they can offer you any additional assistance.  Try to get veterans benefits.  I would even try and get on disability at this point, as I am sure you cannot work with the chronic back problems that you describe.

SInce you are seeing a doctor for your depression and pain already, are you on an antidepressant?  If not, consider that many antidepressants will not only help your depression, but they can also help you with chronic pain, especially the severe nerve pain that comes with spinal stenosis.  

You say that the doctors you see don't believe that your in pain because you look "too good".  I am sure that they believe that you are in pain, but they may not be able to do anything to fix your chronic back problems at this point.  Many studies show that back surgeries often do not help back pain.  Your only option at this point may be pain medications. 

I wish you luck and hope that you get the help you need. 

Community Answers

Wwgrace answered...

After you try the suggestions from the professional, you may want to try what worked for me. I took charge of my own health...I bought a magnet for my back pain, and now I can do physical work. I eat better food which helps to fight depression and disease. I keep hydrated with PiMag water which is absorbed better into my cells. There is great information on the internet to help with keeping a Ph balanced diet. Also check www.Nikken.com/wellnessdaily for information on magnets.

A fellow caregiver answered...

I found this website that may be able to direct you toward some type of assistance. It is for American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project. The address is www.asap.org

I can sympathize w/ your plight. I never had children either but I know may people who do and still can't count on them for help. My mom says one mom can take care of 5 kids but 5 kids can't take care of 1 mom. How TRUE!

I hope you find this website helpful.

Musicblue answered...

My mother received veterans benefits after my father passed away. She didn't get them automatically, but had to hire an attorney. She not only receives her benefits now but also got the benefits for the years she should have been receiving it. She didn't have to pay the attorney until she received the benefits which was 1/3 of the proceeds. There are attorney's out there that specialize in cases such as yours. Good luck and God bless you!!

West sac gal answered...

Dear Anonymous, Boy do you need an advocate. You are definately in the in-between years. My mom went without benefits until she turned 65 too. If you are pulling a pension from your husband you probably are making too much money. A couple of tips. One: Find out if your local radio stations carry any "Aging" programs. We have one great talk radio station here that has 3 or 4 programs about aging covering health care to finances. Two: you are obviously internet savy so start digging for answers. Be specific when you write though so you can get detailed answers. Three: determine what kind of help do you need. Financial, transportation, cleaning, meal prep, house upkeep? Four: If you are an ex-military wife you adapt well so resolve to fight!!! Even if family is miles away ASK for help. Ask for help in researching the options for you. Start with the VA. Each area has their own VA rep. Find out who he or she is then log into the Federal web site for veterans and start diggin. Big Hugs. West Sac Gal

A fellow caregiver answered...

I was 52 and working in Mgmt for a Fortune 50 Company when I was having a lot of pain walking, standing sitting in the wrong chair and finally laying down. I went to my primary who sent me to an orthopedic guy who didn't like me and I didn't like him needless to say he told me I had nothing wrong with me. I then went to a neurology guy non-surgeon who sent me for an MRI and then told me he understood why I was in such pain and sent me to a Pain Mgmt DR. who treated me with meds and epidural. I ended up finally having to have my disc removed or what was left of it and a fusion with rods and screws. Avoid this if you can there are new procedures available out today that where not available in 2000. Go to a large city University Hospital and see an orthopedic guy non surgeon or neuro guy non surgeon and talk to you pain mgmt about epidurals.

You need to push for health care in this country otherwise U don't exist.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Just a thought. You say that you "look too good" to convince medical professionals of your difficulty. Perhaps you should consider the "lipstick sign." It's traditional thought that patients may be ready for discharge from hospital when they feel chipper enough to be sitting up and applying makeup, lipstick, fixing hair & such. If you are showing up for doc appts in full makeup, you may not only appear in a better state than you are, but makeup can hide tell-tale signs of illness. If you tend to spruce up your appearance this way, perhaps it would be worthwhile to pass on all the coverup!

A fellow caregiver answered...

I am a 59-year old single woman, never married, no kids. I grew up as a military brat and continued to move around during my adult years, so I also don't have a ton of friends who have known me since childhood. I've been a caregiver to my mom and dad for the past 10 years and found that I got pretty isolated doing that. I have my own business and work out of my house, so it's even more isolating. So I can share in some of your situation. My dad passed away in December and for the first time in 10 years, I feel like I can start to get my own life back.

My advice to you is to start to look around and

  1. exercise to whatever level you can. I weigh 256 lbs (I'm 5'9") and joined Jazzercise. I'm the fattest person in there by far, but the exercise has lightened my mood 100%. I also have spinal stenosis and my legs go numb off and on throughout the hour, but I believe I'm helping myself in the long run. Exercise of any kind does wonder for your mood.

  2. I also do volunteer work with the local homeless population and getting out and helping others does a lot to take your mind off your own pain and to find the blessings in your own life - because you DO have blessings in your own life, whether you can see them or not right now.

  3. I would also recommend getting any books by Dr. John Sarno -- one is called Healing Back Pain. He's a strong believer in the mind/body connection and how it affects our back pain. A lot of people can have bulging disks and spinal stenosis and have no pain. So having things show up in MRIs don't necessarily mean you have to experience pain from that.

Right now you're totally focused inwardly on your pain and your lack of things. If you can just shift your focus outside yourself for a few minutes to start, you may find your mood will life naturally and you'll start to have some momentum to feeling better. I wish you good luck and please keep us posted on how you're doing.