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A prescription for understanding: why I accompany my mother to the GP

Or maybe my mum is the only one incapable of describing her symptoms to a doctor, of asking useful questions and of remembering the answers. Which is why I end up going to the doctor with my mum. Which was one of the first moments I realised I was now the parent, not the child. My husband calls this the new RP. Nothing to do with Received Pronunciation. Reverse Parenting.

This is now just how it happens. My sister in law or I go to all medical appointments with my mother. There was no conversation about this, no moment when we agreed this was necessary. Just another of those RP things we have slipped into, which makes life easier for all of us, including (we assume) her GP/hospital consultant/A&E triage nurse. There are those slightly odd moments when the doctor asks what is wrong, and my mother says something helpful like ‘I just seem to be feeling a bit off’ or ‘I think I just hit a brick wall last night’. Or a few months ago, when she was barely rousable and clearly seriously unwell, her response to the on-call GP was a shrug of the shoulders and ‘I suppose I do feel rather below par the moment’. Depending on how old and experienced the GP is they show admirably little reaction to this kind of comment, and they start prodding her or taking her blood pressure.  And I start speaking a little too quietly and quickly for mum to hear/follow, giving my interpretation of her elliptical remarks. Between us we sometimes work out what the problem is and the doctor comes up with a proposed solution. But sometimes we flounder, and I am reminded again of moments with my children when they just couldn’t tell us what hurt. Then I try to remind myself about the endless hugs and sympathy those parenting moments demand, instead of exasperated head shaking and sighs.

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