Surprise, Surprise: Learning From Each Other

During the 20+ years I cared for my mother (plus stints as a patient advocate for several friends & relatives) some of the best guidance I got came from other caregivers. It’s true that caregivers are wrung out and stressed out much of the time, but we know stuff. The problem is, we are doing one-off problem solving—just solving that problem for ourselves. But that problem we are solving individually is probably dogging many other caregivers, and the solution you find could help many others.

Recently I was chatting with a caregiving acquaintance that I just happened to run into. We were catching up when something she said bent my ear. She had just paid an unexpected $900 bill for an ambulance ride taken by her care recipient.  Apparently, the company providing the emergency ride was “out of network” for her insurance coverage. I quickly picked up my laptop to do some research and found that many ambulance trips result in out-of-network bills. I had no idea. And I bet most other caregivers don’t either. (See "Politicians Tackle Surprise Bills, but Not the Biggest Source of Them: Ambulances." New York Times 22 July 2019.)

Of course one has to be careful with hearsay (why I did the research). But there is a lot of good, solid info gleaned directly from experience that caregivers can share. We don’t each have to learn the same lesson (usually from mistakes) over and over. That’s why I work to help organizations set up family caregiver support groups. Caregivers need to talk. Not gathering to gripe but to exchange practical, problem-solving information. We could learn things that no other expert knows or is willing to share. More sharing could help smooth the way on our caregiving journey.

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