It's sensible to cancel this appointment, right?
March 24, 2020 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Okay, so my elderly mother has an appointment booked with a specialist next Friday. I'm thinking that with Covid-19, the *sensible* thing to do is cancel it and NOT visit my mother, right? How do I cancel this appointment and not sound like a nut? Details inside, of course.

So, I jumped the gun last week with my previous question when I had major anxiety about the coronavirus. She's completely fine and in good spirits, the cough and sore throat was gone in a few days. (I've been keeping tabs on her with FaceTime, we've been communicating a ton.)

I'm feeling a bit unsure about what to do regarding my mother's follow-up appointment with a cardiologist, which is to deal with her high blood pressure. Her blood pressure is still a bit high after the cardiologist prescribed her new meds, but she's doing well and has been (miraculously) tracking her blood pressure for the past month independently!! Obviously with her age (74) and her high blood pressure, she'd be extremely vulnerable to Covid-19. I know, that I should just call the cardiologist's office and re-book it for the future. This might sound RIDICULOUS, but somehow I'm afraid that if we cancels the doctor won't let her re-book, or will be upset at her during our next visit because her blood pressure is still high, etc. I'm sure this is irrational, but I'm anxious about cancelling her appointment!!! Is there a script or something that doesn't sound completely irrational when calling the doctor's office to cancel? I'm afraid I'll sound... well, like I sound now (ridiculous, irrational, anxious, etc.)?

In order to take her to this appointment, I would have to dive 4.5 hours away. I'm worried that, of course, I could be a carrier or whatever and pass something along to her (imagine all the gas stations I'd have to stop at). And then I'd stay with her, etc. again putting her at risk (maybe??). I also think that my work would make me self-quarantine for the 14 days, because a) I went to doctors offices AND b) two coworkers who recently visited the Big City my mom lives in... self quarantined themselves after coming back to our town last week (but I think they did touristy things, which I wouldn't do, but still!!!), as far as I know I'd be paid, but.... yeah, I don't know. My workplace might also be closed by then, so who knows.

My mother would be THRILLED to not visit the cardiologist next week. And due to Covid-19, I'm with her, I don't think she should go to her appointment. Honestly, it just seems really risky right now. I already worry too much about my mother and that fact that she's a shut-in, has actually given me slightly LESS anxiety about her than usual.
posted by VirginiaPlain to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would be surprised if the doctor's office doesn't contact you to cancel!
My Mom is in almost the same situation, although she is 79, and her appt. was supposed to be this Thursday, but her doc called and said not to come.
Honestly, I think the risks outweigh the good in this situation - if the doctor hadn't called my Mom, she was going to cancel anyway...she has been diligent about tracking, and very diligent about staying in and no contact...
I am a gardener, not a doctor, but I think you should cancel. A simple phone call will do it - the health care profession is on overload as it is - they will understand, and share, your concerns.
posted by PlantGoddess at 8:40 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]

No one at the doctor's office will think you're irrational or be mad at you or your mother . Everyone is in the same boat. You can call and say "Due to my mother needing to shelter in place, we would like to reschedule." YOu also can ask them if it's urgent medically for her to be there because if not you'd rather reschedule due to her needing to shelter in place.
You can also ask if they can do a telehealth or other video type of visit.
Adding on preview: I was also going to add what PlantGoddess says. They very well may reschedule themselves.
posted by nantucket at 8:43 PM on March 24 [6 favorites]

Is there a script or something that doesn't sound completely irrational when calling the doctor's office to cancel?

"Hi, I have several high-risk conditions for COVID-19, and recently had a dry cough and sore throat, and I'm wondering if there is a telehealth or phone consultation option for my upcoming appointment. I've been tracking my blood pressure for the past month independently and while it is still high, I could share this information by phone. I don't have any transportation options to get to the appointment besides my daughter, who will need to drive 4.5 hours to get here, and she is currently not under stay-at-home orders in her town, and continues to go to work.

Oh, and can you write a 90-day refill on my medications? Thank you!"
posted by katra at 8:44 PM on March 24 [7 favorites]

My mom who has high blood pressure and is in her 70s just had her upcoming appointment cancelled by her cardiologist. A phone call to cancel won't be weird at all! It'll be fine. Just say you need to reschedule due to her sheltering in place.
posted by ilovewinter at 8:44 PM on March 24

This is an extremely sensible thing to do. The only thing that makes you sound anxious is, well, the anxiety about it. Which is also normal - but healthcare providers, as a rule, do not judge or berate their patients for being anxious, or rescheduling appointments, or even for not perfectly managing a condition. My daughter had an extended NICU stay and I had exchanges with providers that made me nervous they would, I don't know, be mean to my preemie because I had disagreed with them, and that never, ever, ever happened. I never had to "fire" anyone on our team, but now as a volunteer in touch with both nurses and parents, I know that this happens and the staff do not let it affect the care they provide to the patient. Please be reassured in that regard.

Katra's script is great. Many providers are proactively switching to telehealth or rescheduling appointments already. You can also straight up ask, I'm calling about the appointment next Friday; given the circumstances do you recommend that we reschedule? They will almost certainly say yes.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:46 PM on March 24

Where are you located? In some places, it’s now possible to have telephone or video consultations. My dad’s cardiologist actually initiated this, and the appointment was done as a three-way call. Check with the office, they may have an option in place.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:46 PM on March 24 [3 favorites]

1. If appointment is not urgent:

"[Mother] wishes to cancel, in order to avoid medical settings during the COVID-19 outbreak, as [mother] is in a high-risk group for COVID-19."

That's all you need to say, the medical provider will not have a problem with this unless they are incredibly unethical and unfit for their job.

2. If appointment is urgent, or if unsure about urgency:

"[Mother] would prefer to cancel, in order to avoid medical settings during the COVID-19 outbreak, as [mother] is in a high-risk group. What would you advise?"
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:54 PM on March 24

Telemedicine. This is what it's for.

Note: Before coronavirus, it wasn't offered much partly because of billing barriers. Now that's being solved quickly, to meet the urgent need.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:04 PM on March 24 [1 favorite]

Thanks for confirming my actions, everyone! I'll be cancelling her appointment tomorrow.

Regarding telemedicine, I hadn't thought of that. She can't *really* independently use FaceTime on her iPad, she only calls me because I added myself to her contact list and set it all up. We could certainly figure out a way to do telemedicine, I think, if I was the intermediary. Not sure if that's how it works, but I guess it's something I'll worry about on another day.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 10:24 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]

I’ve spent the last couple of days researching telemedicine platforms for my workplace. We haven’t decided who we’re going with, but I just wanted to let you know that some of them are extremely user friendly. Like, click a link they email you, and you’re in.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:52 PM on March 24

I have spent most of the last week triaging and running telephone clinics for my Nephrology patients. Most of my other specialty colleagues have been doing the same within their departments - all of our face to face outpatient appointments have stopped until at least August.

If you are in a country with a significant number of covid cases, I am sure her cardiologist will have been making contingency plans. Even if they don’t generally offer full-on telehealth, they own a telephone. Give them a call and see what they can offer.
posted by tinkletown at 12:43 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]

Do meantion her blood pressure numbers, they may go ahead an add a medication if she has been doing meticulous tracking and it still high or increase the dosage. Telemedicine has litterally transformed in the last week, which is an awesome situation with that awful commute .
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:59 AM on March 25 [2 favorites]

I've spent the last four days being called by hospital support staff being told each of our family's appointments are cancelled or moving to telephone consults, and thanking them for helping us practice self isolation when they do. I suspect the only reason the cardiologist's office hasn't called already is because they haven't gotten that far down the list, due to staff being out.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:16 AM on March 25

Your mother may well be able to make her telemedicine call just on the telephone. I have had to make 2 of those calls recently & my cell phone is broken so I just used my land line, described symptoms, gave info & coughed down a phone line.
posted by wwax at 8:40 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]

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