Written by Raye Willms and Pearlette Cassells
Pearlette Cassells, the author of “‘So, what does that mean doctor?” Key questions to ask & how to prepare for your Medical Checkup”, works full-time, stays educated and proactive about her own health. She helps with caregiving responsibilities remotely for her aging mother in Jamaica (often flying there to visit and help her siblings). Through all of this, she is a compassionate and caring person who is ready to help others by volunteering in her community. Pearlette loves having things organized which she believes helps to save time, money and stress. As a result, she has become a sort of “go to person” within her circle of friends and co-workers. Her insight into care comes from her own personal health care and remote caregiving experience. Support networks and communities are powerful. Connecting with someone who has “Lived it right then and there” to learn from their experiences is invaluable. There are so many resources out there, you just have to know where to find them. That’s where Pearlette comes in. She has a wealth of knowledge, from care management to caregiver support.
Here is her story.
With a family history of Diabetes and High Blood Pressure (father passed away from a stroke), Pearlette was naturally concerned for her health and wanted to be proactive. Every year she would go for a medical check-up and get the usual blood work done. Her doctor would tell her “If there is anything wrong, I’ll call you.” We’ve ALL heard that before! *rolls eyes* - there is nothing worse than not knowing. In 2016, she started feeling fatigued and lethargic. Her natural tendency was to downplay her symptoms (as so many of us do) but it just wasn’t normal for her as a bright and upbeat person. She mentioned her concerns to a family member who suggested that she get her A1c levels checked (an A1c test is used to diagnose diabetes or pre-diabetes) or provide Blood Sugar levels over a 2 to 3 month period. Pearlette didn’t know what A1c was or what it could mean before hearing her family suggest it. She booked an appointment with her doctor and got some blood work done. After the test, she learned she was pre-diabetic, and was shocked. She began to question “how didn’t I know sooner”, “what do these numbers mean on the blood work results”, “who else is out there busy with their everyday life and not realize what’s happening to their health”?
Pearlette tried her best to stay on top of her health with A1c tests and blood pressure monitoring, but there were so many papers and number to keep track of. It was next to impossible to keep them all organized and feel prepared for medical checkup/appointments. She had many questions for her doctor. It is easy to get distracted with the answer from one question and forget the rest if they are not written down. Doctors are busy and mainly focus on the current condition. With online access to her blood work results through a provided patient portal she was able to track her A1c levels and understand what levels were normal or high. Left to her own research, there was so much other information she didn’t understand. By chance, Pearlette happened upon a flyer for a diabetes support group with regular meetings and contacted them.
The Diabetes Educator was extremely helpful, walked her through every step of her journey by explaining what to do and why it was important. This made all the difference to Pearlette. She realized that understanding what the numbers mean, how they impact her life and what steps she should be taking to maintain a healthy lifestyle enabled her to be proactive and take control. The Diabetes Educator is a specialist in this area and helps the patient understand clearly what action they should be taking on their health journey.
Imagine! Just for a second. How much less scary and mysterious your care would be with someone who walked you through your care needs? We could all use someone to navigate our health and care.
To manage all of this information, Pearlette developed a handbook with charts to track her readings for Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar (A1c) and Cholesterol levels. Having all this information in one place keeps the patient organized for their medical appointments. As she did this she wondered, how many more people are out there dealing with the same thing? So, she wrote the book ““So, what does that mean Doctor?” Key Questions to ask and how to prepare for your Medical Checkup” to share her experience and help others who are dealing with a similar situation or caring for an aging parent or loved one.
As a long distance caregiver, she tries to stay in-the-know as much as possible through communication with her siblings and her mother. When she visits, she relieves her siblings and takes her mother to medical appointments. Being prepared is so important. In stressful times, recalling details can be next to impossible. Pearlette remembers taking her mother to a specialist appointment and was asked what her mom’s date of birth was, she blanked. This is normally a fact she could recall without difficulty. Stress can cause you to forget important information when needed. Accessibility to up-to-date, accurate medical information is crucial to advocate for yourself and your loved ones.