On the face of it, this sounds simple.
You have a disease, you need treatment, and the sooner you’re cured the better.
But what if it’s really, truly sick, and you really, totally need a second opinion?
And you’re not willing to risk getting another one?
If that’s the case, can you get the treatment you need at home?
Dr. Daniel J. Steinberg, a geriatrician and associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells ABC News he has seen that happen to some people.
Dr. Steinbrenner said he’s seen people who have had a stroke, heart attack, or cancer come in and get the same kind of care as the elderly who are in a nursing home.
But that’s not always the case.
If someone has a severe infection that requires immediate treatment, for example, he’s advised not to wait until the infection is gone before getting the next round of antibiotics.
And that’s just not the way geriatrics work.
Steinbaugh said some patients who are seriously ill have to be in isolation for several days.
Steinberger said some people get treated in a clinic where they’re not allowed to go outside, and some are seen at home and treated in isolation.
If you’re a serious illness, Steinbrey says, you can be treated by a hospital that doesn’t allow you to come outside, where you’re exposed to other people and are potentially at risk of infection.
“They can’t even see you for a couple of days and you have no way to contact your family,” Steinbarger said.
“There’s no way you can really see how it’s going to affect your quality of life.”
He said a lot of the time, you don’t even know that the next treatment is coming, because you’ve got a bad case of pneumonia.
“But there are people who come in who are just totally and utterly in need of immediate care and have a terrible case of an infection, and that’s what I’m concerned about,” Steinber told ABC News.
Steinber said if the only way you get antibiotics is in a hospital, that’s a problem, because even if you get an antibiotic in the hospital, you might not be able to get it anywhere else.
“You’re essentially putting your life at risk,” he said.
And the more often you’re treated, the worse the prognosis.
“It’s very sad that we have a situation where we have people who are so ill and have such a high complication rate that we can’t get the medication we need,” Steinberg said.
The worst part of all of this is that it’s a tragedy, he added.
“This is an opportunity to save lives and to make sure that we’re not putting ourselves in a situation in which we’re losing people’s lives,” he told ABC.
He said the lack of medical care can lead to a lot more infections and complications.
Steinbrenden’s case is not unique.
Roberta Bader and Jennifer Whelan of the University of Washington told ABC that a number of elderly patients have also reported experiencing problems with the medical care they receive at home.
Bader said her research shows many elderly people don’t know where to get the best medical care.
“A lot of people who don’t have a family physician or physician assistants and have no home health care options don’t see doctors in their community, or they don’t get tested for certain infections,” Bader told ABCNews.
“And so there’s a lot that’s going on that’s putting patients at risk, and I think that’s really bad.”
The National Institutes of Health has launched an initiative called Geriatric Emergency Services to offer more help to elderly patients, but there is no shortage of resources in the United States.
In the U.S., there are more than 50,000 licensed geriatric doctors.
Steinbach said the goal is to have as many as 50,00 geriatricians, but he said there are only so many doctors and nurses.
Steinbiigs research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.