Quoting Gloria Gaynor, ‘I Will Survive’

Remember when your only doctor was your pediatrician, whom you remember fondly (Dr. Buchman in Hartsdale), or dentist (my best friend Beth’s Uncle Sol in those pre-fluoride days of cavities).

As young adults, we added an ophthamologist — we wore glasses and then contact lenses (and in my case, back to glasses once COVID-19 started) — but that was pretty much it. Medications were uncommon, other than birth control pills for women and an occasional aspirin; my medicine cabinet held mostly makeup and perfume.

How all that has changed. Most of my peers have added, at a minimum, a cardiologist and dermatologist and orthopedic surgeon (our knees and hips betrayed us). We find local doctors whom we like to say “are good as New York City doctors,” (though many folks still go into the City only to see their doctor).

My primary physician is a concierge doctor in New York City, available by text 24/7, which is invaluable, but otherwise I have gradually transitioned to local doctors, and in fact, very successfully had a stent inserted at Vassar Hospital.

Regrettably, post-COVID, it seems doctors are forced to see a different patient every 15 minutes. It’s frustrating and infuriating and I leave forgetting to ask half my questions, so I’ve adjusted to seeing (and befriending) the nurse or PA, who have become the doctor’s alter ego.

Visits with friends seem to center around whom we see, how to get an appointment before six months or even which of a doctor’s four offices to go to. Most of us are on Medicare, which I find easier than any corporate plan I’ve ever had, and I see it as one of the “perks” of aging. I admittedly put my late husband on it while I stayed on my corporate plan — just to test the waters — and after he had a few doctor visits where he simply walked out the door afterwards, I couldn’t wait to sign up.

Then there are the meds — somehow I now take six prescription medicines and six more supplemental pills — and my doctor insists they are all essential. I’m not sure about that, but as he points out, I seem to be feeling great and am asymptomatic, so why mess it up? Then of course, there are the “situational” ones, the antibiotics and the nasal sprays, the cough and sore throat medicines, maybe a steroid or an antihistamine, and the omnipresent COVID tests — by now I could probably compete with CVS.

One annoying byproduct of the above has become the need to now travel with an entire bag of toiletries, from Band-Aids to antibiotic cream, from Paxlovid to Immodium, from sunblock — remember those days of iodine and baby oil, and often a reflector for good measure? — to Aquaphor, and from vitamin E oil to a moisturizer for each separate part of the body. Better to be safe ...

I must touch on therapy — not physical therapy, although that’s now part of life, but psychologists and psychiatrists. After college, living in New York City, my recollection is that everyone was in therapy, and I remember I wouldn’t date a fellow who wasn’t — not highly evolved enough for me. I remember by the end of my very brief first marriage, my husband and I were each in therapy AND we had couples’ therapy. The marriage ended anyway because the whole point of therapy is to figure out what’s best for YOU, and in our case, divorce was the correct answer. I’m still a devotee of getting help whenever needed, someone who can be objective and whose advice isn’t clouded by a shared history, and I have found someone up here I see for “tuneups” whenever I feel the need.

I fully accept the fact that aging hasn’t given me all the answers, but instead has presented me with all new questions. I hope to cover many of the issues we are all dealing with in subsequent columns, and if you have anything you want to share, please feel free to contact me at gweng@millertonnews.com

Gwen lives in Pine Plains with her partner, Dennis; her puppy, Charlie; and two Angus cows, who are also retired.

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