I’ve written several posts about eye medical care (post on cataracts - posts on detached retinas). Sometime soon I will share a bit more about my experience with cataract surgery — mine occurred several weeks ago.
Recently I discovered a terrific eye education resource. If you are trying to make sense of the medical health of your eyes or the eyes of an aging parent, get started by educating yourself about the structure of an eye. Check out this wonderful Eye Anatomy Tour, posted over at the Cleveland Clinic website.
Because most of my doctors offer explanations during fairly short appointments, I am not always able to absorb everything. My physicians usually explain things clearly and mostly in an unrushed manner, but I cannot always remember everything that I need (or want) to know.
The nice thing about this animated eye tour is that it can be run over and over — always a useful feature but especially so if an adult child is explaining an eye condition to an aging parent. When you watch the tour you can also use the Dictionary of Eye Terms, linked from the same web page.
This post is not a substitute for talking with your physician.
With some frequency adult children search for reliable medical information after hearing research reported on the news. Or perhaps an aging parent or spouse is ill, a physician recommends a new therapy or treatment, and a family wants to learn more as they consider the recommendation.
When any of us seek to learn more, it’s second nature to try to increase our understanding by consulting electronic articles and other resources — either summary articles in newspapers or original reports in medical journals — and asking the question, “How might this medical research help me?”
The problem is, sorting through research articles and reports often yields mixed results. One piece of research may report positive results and beneficial patient outcomes while another might report just the opposite with less desirable results — on the same topic. How does one decide what research to consider seriously?
It happens over and over again as I listen to the radio or read the news. I hear about an aging parent issue or a disease that is increasing in magnitude. Or sometime it’s a health issue that is affecting certain groups of people or a new bit of research that describes problems with an intervention — one that I thought was working well. Invariably these stories make me ask why? Sometimes I ask a more personal question, “If that seems to work for me, how come researchers say is isn’t effective?”
In just about every case, I answer my question by learning more about the study of epidemiology — a field that explores and collects data about how diseases specifically and health issues in general occur and affect people and in certain places. Epidemiology measures by some period of time. This short video from the Centers from Disease Control explains more.
Epidemiology can be difficult to understand, especially because people, including me, tend to personalize the issues. Here are just a few questions to illustrate this personalization.
These mini radio programs are a terrific resource for people of all ages, but adult children and their parents will find they provide a helpful introduction to the National Library of Medicine and Medline Plus. The podcasts used to be narrated by NLM director Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D. but now they are read by NLM staff member Rob Logan, Ph.D., a member of Dr. Lindberg’s library staff. Users encounter the image above when they search for the “casts” in iTunes.
The NLM podcasts are short, informative, easy to understand, and simple to download to a listening device, via iTunes. It’s not uncommon for a program to cite current research and explain its importance and relevance, so a listener can easily locate the research after listening.
Visiting the doctor’s office with an aging parent can be one the most puzzling situations for adult children as they provide increasing support. The dynamics of the situation can be confusing, especially in a time when family roles and responsibilities are changing. My husband visited the doctor with his 90-year-old mother on several occasions. At each appointment he tried to keep the focus on her, and he usually waited for her to bring up issues with her physician. However, he also found that as she declined cognitively, sharing his observations became more important, particularly when he thought that some of her symptoms might result from medication interactions.
American Medical News, a publication of the American Medical Association (AMA), recently published a November 14, 2011 article about relatives who accompany an aging patient on a visit to the doctor. When the Office Visit is a Family Matterincludes interviews with physicians who have found themselves in the examining room with a patient and one or more of the patient’s relatives.
If you are researching a course of treatment or a cause of disease for an aging parent, family member, or friend, the chances are that you will read scientific studies. Perhaps you will check PubMed, the National Institutes of Health site that has abstracts of all published scientific research. You can visit the National Library of Medicine online or in person, or maybe arrange to go to your local hospital library and check out medical journals.
What’s confusing about searching for information in this way? Well, for one thing, if you are looking for research that examines a particular treatment, disease, or intervention, you are as likely to find studies that describe the success as you are to find reliable research that identified failures.
What should you do in your search? To get a much bigger picture, try to locate a study that’s a meta-analysis.