Patient Suffering from Potential Dementia Harassing Practice - What do I do?
May 5, 2011
Dear Ms. Kirschenbaum,
I have a question for your email.
We are a specialty practice and delivered care to a patient over one year ago. The patient began calling the office multiple times per day and clogging up the phone lines. After attempts from myself and the staff to stop calling, she continued to call. So we wrote her a formal certified letter terminating care. It has been well over the grace period for her to find another specialist but she continues to call multiple times a day asking odd questions. We suspect that the patient has dementia/Alzheimers but she lives alone and continues to call over 20 times per day. We have called our phone company but they can not block an individual number. What legal options do I have? Her harassment is impeding my office's ability to function well.
Dr. S, sorry to say that the advice I have for this difficult situation is that I recommend calling the police or going to a station and filing a police report so that you have created a written record of the harassment. You should also mention in the report the written termination you issued the patient. If the patient does not have an appropriate caregiver then there is not much else to do. However, this way you will have a formal record. Pushing the issue further - seeking a restraining order - may not be of any help if the patient does have dementia/Alzheimers and phone access.
This is one of those tough situations where there isn't a great answer. Getting the State involved if this individual cannot care for herself any longer is a solution, however, not typically a good solution for the party involved. Sorry to hear the phone company was of no assistance. The option always is open to change the practice number, but in for the obvious reasons, of creating a hassle for the rest of your practice, this is not really a practical solution.
Going back to the written termination letter you sent to the patient; I'm glad to hear that was sent out some time ago. An appropriate patient termination should include thought given to continuity of care. If you are terminating a "problem" patient, you may not want to do this to fellow colleagues, but it never hurts to include referrals in a termination letter, to indicate to the patient that other care options are available.
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at a residency/fellowship program?
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