This page and this part of my practice is in memory of him and my mother Barbara Schreibman who taught me what it meant to be a fierce patient advocate.
This is my brother Dr. Stephen Schreibman. We were talking together one day last month about the many things that we'd learned over the last 14 years about taking care of people who are suddenly faced with the challenges of an aging parent or a loved one who's just been unexpectedly admitted to the hospital. When crisis strikes, you're generally unprepared and it can be difficult to function as the support system and the advocate and these days, you can definitely benefit from having a caring, qualified advocate who will navigate the system for you, give you the best advice so that you can choose the course of care wisely, leaving you the time free so that you can simply be with and comfort your loved one.
Although our parents last few years were medically challenging, they brought me an even greater understanding of what can be done when a family takes control of the decisions for their loved ones , instead of just leaving themselves at the mercy of a system that does not yet understand how to support them! Many hours were spent helping them unravel the mysteries of their health insurance, saving them from thousands of dollars of unnecessary out of pocket expense. Many hours were spent challenging their Doctors for answers instead of ultimatums. Many hours were spent researching contraindications and side effects of drugs that were prescribed without any understanding of the whole patient, drugs that oftentimes did more harm than good.
My favorite story is actually a very simple one. My father was lying barely conscious in the hospital fighting to recover from an deadly antibiotic resistant superbug that he'd been exposed carelessly to in his nursing home. Before that he'd suffered from a series of what are called "fevers of unknown origin" which are exactly what they sound like, high fevers that come on for no explainable reason. It was clear to me that although the drugs and hydration therapy were working that something else was going on and I was fairly sure that it was some kind of unseen inflammatory process. After being told that my father was simply going to be sent back to the nursing home facility to die, I got angry and demanded that a rheumatologist be brought in.
The infectious disease Doctor accused me of intervening needlessly and wasting their time. I made enough of a fuss that they decided to humor me and a rheumatological consult was given. What was discovered was astonishing to them , but not to any of us as we'd known all of my fathers medical history. My father had advanced rheumatoid arthritis, causing internal swelling, inflammation around his joints, intense fatigue and of course....Fevers. Once my father was put on the appropriate medications, his body could begin the real process of fighting off the infection that was killing him. Two days later he opened his eyes and smiled for the first time in weeks. I still never got any acknowledgement from the infectious disease doctor but it wasn't necessary. My dad's recovery after that was still long but it progressed powerfully. We were able to enjoy almost three more years with him until he finally died at the ripe old age of 83.
The point here is simple. Being thrown into a hospital is scary and sadly not without risk. No one knows your loved one better than you do. A good patient advocate will work with the system on your behalf and empower you to ask the right questions and make the powerful choices decisions needed to restore balance and health to anyone in a crisis situation even when those decisions fly in the face of what you are being told. A good patient advocate will encourage and powerfully support you to request a second opinion if they're not comfortable with procedures being done or prescriptions being administered. A good patient advocate will assess your home for risks before they become realities and will get to know everything about your loved one and their family so that when crisis strikes they're prepared to take action on your behalf. A good patient advocate will help you and your family members communicate with each other by simple yet powerful coaching that allows you to communicate even through the difficulties.
The long and short of it? I really wish that I'd had a "me" to fight for us while this and many other problems like this were occurring. Too much of my time was spent in anger and defense mode, when instead I would have just liked to have been holding my fathers hand. We took complete control of our parents healthcare and worked directly with their Doctors who probably wished at times that we would just go away.
In thinking and talking about it , our next steps became crystal clear. Both of our parents are gone, but if we could keep just one family from experiencing what we'd gone through, then it would be enough.
In my brother's words....
"One day a lack of communication relating to medication and chemistry values caused a potentially fatal problem after I had just undergone a successful kidney transplant surgery.
As I was recovering from this completely avoidable crisis situation , I started cataloguing all the times I could remember that a patient advocate could have saved me or a family member from a potentially significant complication or even death.
I realized then that even though I am a trained physician, I was not able escape the problems of the medical system unscathed. These experiences and conversations with many others who have experienced problems upon entering the hospital have become the inspiration for my patient advocacy practice. " Dr. Stephen D. Schreibman
Tulane University & Medical School, New Orleans -1961-1968
Mt Sinai Hospital of Cleveland ~ Internship and one year General surgery
Case Western Reserve University - Residency /Otolaryngology and Head and Neck
Air Force 1973-75 - Head of the Ear, Nose and Throat Department at Wright -Patterson Air Force Base
26 years of practice in Cleveland, Ohio, both as a clinical staff member of Case Western Reserve Medical School, teaching residents and fellows and in private practice. For the last 10 years before I retired, I practiced allergy diagnostics and treatment which I aligned with my knowledge of alternative & complementary medical systems. I have also been involved with Eastern healing practicing Acupressure, Tai Chi, Yoga for well over 20 years.
Dr. Schreibman is available to work with you or your caregivers in person via cell phone or Skype. If you are interested in receiving a 50 minute free of charge consultation with him, please contact him through this form found on my contact page . Leave your name, phone number, email and health concerns and he will contact you within 24 hours. If you are experiencing a need for immediate assistance with an elder or other loved one , please text me at 216-496-1479*.
* For calls requiring urgent 24/7 assistance there will be a charge of 250.00 for the first hour and 175.00 for each hour after that.
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