Elder Parent Surgery, Part IV: The Art of Respect

A month after my mother’s surgery at the University of Virginia Health System, we returned for a follow-up appointment with her surgeon. My mom came through with flying colors, but the real star is Dr. Duska. Moreover, the people who work with this gifted and graceful physician, her residents and fellows, are also amazing. All of them communicated in a relaxed way, took medical histories with warmth and interest, and even spent time learning more about my mom than the mere facts about her medical condition.

But there’s more. Adult children know what it can be like to go to an unfamiliar specialist with an elder parent and watch the parent be treated as a child, or at least not as a full-fledged adult. Ageism is alive and well in many places.

Not once in our experiences did Dr. Duska or any her colleagues do anything that made my mother feel like an old or irrelevant person. Of course Charlottesville is in central Virginia, and even though UVA is a major public research university (Did I mention that we were there at the beginning of the leadership debacle?) at least a few people around the Medical Center called my mom “hon” or “dearie.” In the Commonwealth of Virginia one simply tries hard to get used to that.

But for Dr. Duska and her colleagues respect is an art form, just like their surgical skills.

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