Doctor Marion

Question: Is there an anxiolytic drug that is safe to use for a patient who has glaucoma? She lives at a skilled care home and recently had an episode that was characterized as "acting out" for which they prescribed Ativan. I have been unable to pry out the details of prescribed dosage or whether or not the Ativan has actually been given to Mother. However, I am concerned that it will aggravate her glaucoma. She is completely blind in one eye already. –Barbara

Answer: It’s important to know that when you’re dealing with the medical staff of a hospital, nursing home, assisted living institution, or any type of care facility, there is a limited amount of information that they can give out. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a law that allows the medical and personal information to be disclosed only to the person who has been designated by the patient, usually called the “health care proxy designate.” So, you may not legally be able to get the information that you want about your mother. HIPAA has done a remarkable job to protect patients since it was signed into law in 1996, so you do need to work around it.

The best way to do that is to spend time researching your mother’s situation on the Internet or at your local library. Try to find out any specific information you need from the staff, and then write out all of your questions before you visit with them. When possible, I also fax the questions to the professionals involved in case they can do research to find the best answers. I even follow up after I send the fax to make sure my questions have been received and placed in my client’s folder.

As for your mother’s “acting out,” I’m not a medical doctor, but I can recommend that she visit an eye specialist to get a clear professional opinion about her condition. That specialist should also know if there is an anxiolytic drug that is safe for your mother to use.

© 2007 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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