Growing up in Puerto Rico, my family received healthcare through Medicaid. I moved to the States 33 years ago for college, and stayed here and got married. I later brought my parents and my brother to live near me in Virginia Beach, Va. They continue to receive Medicaid and Medicare.
My parents, Gloria and Herminio, don't speak English, while my brother Jeffrey understands English but can't communicate well. The system is not equipped in geographic areas like Virginia Beach that aren't heavily Hispanic to serve Spanish-speaking people and explain treatments and benefits.
So I am the one who goes on appointments and tries to do coordination for the entire family.
On the hospital side, they do offer Spanish translation services. But here in Virginia Beach, I haven't been able to find a doctor for my mother's special needs who speaks Spanish. My mother is 72 and has fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, gum disease and depression.
I have to be available for everything. Because of my job and my work travel, it is truly a struggle to be on top of all her appointments, case reviews and other medical issues.
When the doctor prescribes an extra medication for her, if I don't pay attention, she'll be doing double doses on everything. She doesn't understand that two drugs with different names can be the same.
A year ago, the doctor prescribed a generic version of the brand-name blood pressure medication she was taking. For about a month she was taking both prescriptions. I was able to cut it off before she suffered any harm.
When that happened, she was seeing doctors in different provider networks. The lesson I learned was to make sure the specialists and primary-care doctors she sees are all in the same network so they all have access to my mother's medical records and avoid duplication of prescriptions.