What to Do When You Feel Your Parent Is Being Over-Treated


Experts say that as many as 40% of elective surgeries are unnecessarily performed, according to CBS News.

Additionally, people going in for a checkup have a 43% chance of having a needless medical test, according to research reported on WebMD.com.

The reasons for these high figures are numerous, and range from well-meaning doctors taking the concept of "due diligence" to an extreme, to outright fraudsters.

The problem is that, for elderly people in particular, unnecessary tests and surgeries can have dire consequences. Luckily, informed consent policies require a doctor to make sure that the patient, or whoever is making the medical decisions for the patient is comfortable with the suggested course of care.

Doctors may not always offer this information up voluntarily, and they may not know what your concerns are. So, here are some questions you can ask to help you decide whether a medical procedure is necessary or not:

  1. Why should I do it? It's important for you to know the reason why the physician has ordered a certain test or surgical procedure. Getting a doctor to describe the logic behind his or her decision will serve to either put your mind at ease, or raise red flags about the validity of their suggestion.
  2. What other options do I have? Sometimes there is more than one way to conduct a diagnostic test or a viable alternative to surgery. Asking a doctor about all the possibilities will allow you to make a more informed decision regarding your medical care.
  3. What's next? Understanding the follow-up procedures and care for a particular test or procedure can help you decide whether it's worthwhile to go through with it. For example, there is a line of thought that suggests early diagnosis of prostate cancer may not always be helpful to men, because, in some instances, detectable tumors never become serious enough to have a negative health impact. In these instances, the physical and mental stress of subsequent tests and surgeries to remove the benign tumor far outweigh the benefits.
  4. What if I do it? Every medical procedure, no matter how innocuous has possible complications. Having knowledge of these hazards and their effect on the health of an elderly person is essential to making an informed decision about a test or procedure.
  5. What if I don't do it? While it may seem like you are playing Devil's advocate, you should ask the doctor what could happen if you don't undergo a test or have a certain procedure performed.
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Overtreatment of the Elderly is Encouraged because physicians/hospitals are paid for treatment of the elderly (because of age discrimination law) up until the Diagnosis Related Group Cap no matter the age and the condition of the patient.

However, in the past many years, CMS and the private insurers have developed reimbursement protocols that do not pay physicians/hospitals for non-beneficial overtreatment or for errors and omissions.

Think of the unintended consequences to the elderly who are not aware that their treatment is not being reimbursed by their insurance and Medicare. Think of how this invited untilateral and covert DNRs that CAP the unreimbursed costs by sending patients to eternity sooner rather than later ----and without their informed consent.

A fall of an elderly patient is treated as an "error" and their is NO reimbursement for treatment of the injury after the fall. Think of the unintended consequences to elderly patients.

We were told the options, but did not get the full information for why these were the options. In her case, she got a metal plate in her broken arm because we were told the plate would strengthen her arm, but the plate was just supposed to be there to keep the bone in line until her bone healed, not for any strength afterwards. She didn't need the plate, and her bones are so brittle that the doctor now thinks she may need another surgery because the screws may back out. She should not have had the screws put in in the first place, but nobody mentioned anything about the screws that go with the plates being a problem for people with osteoporosis.