Showing posts with label boomer health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label boomer health. Show all posts

Monday, May 30, 2022

Where doctors still make house calls!

My post title refers to our expat world; the world of the rural Greek Peloponnese. 

It is a world where doctors still make house calls. 

And because some of the questions we are most often asked by expat wannabe's, travelers heading this way, and others who are curious about life here concern health care, I thought I'd tell you a bit about it:

A house call in rural Greece

I begin with a  Facebook posts by Dr. Anargiros D. Mariolis, --pictured in the photo above  --  about a house call he had made earlier this month. His purpose was to feature the patient, not the fact he had made the house call, by the way.  

What he wrote: 

A different kind of day... grandmother has never visited the Areopoli Health Center and does not receive any medication. Whenever she has asked for help, we have visited her at her own place (on top of a beautiful mountain).
Grandma, I will always be by your side.
You are a modern day heroine of Mani.
Thank you so much because from the steep rock you have been living all these years, teaching life lessons.

The medical facility where he works and the area he serves is about 40 minutes to our south.  It is an area of The Mani that still feels remote and vast. The landscape is harsh and unforgiving; the population scant.  The town of Areopoli where the facility is located is named for the ancient Greek god of war. It was the place the Greek War of Independence began in 1821. Its Health Center is renown for its service.

Landscape near Areopoli - a vast, empty land

However, this personal, caring approach to health care isn't limited to this area. We, who live north of here, also have experienced this same personalized approach to caregiving. It is a startling contrast to  the highly computerized, non-personalized world of health care that we knew in the Seattle suburbs. It often reminds us of the American television character, 'Dr. Marcus Welby'  back in the early 1970's. He was that gentle, caring doctor who won viewers hearts, just as real-life health care professionals are winning ours here.

I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that Dr. Mariolis was recognized last year by WONCA, the World Organization of Family Doctors, an organization of 500,000 family doctors representing some 131 countries. He was awarded  the WONCA Global Five Star Doctor Award in 2021 for 'his excellence as a care provider, a decision maker, a communicator, a community leader and a manager'.

In the Matter of House Calls

Our village, Agios Nikolaos

One of our favorite 'newbie' stories from our early days at our Stone House on the Hill stems from a visit to our Agios Nikolaos village health clinic 'to check it out'.  All the staff members on duty came to greet us and during the course of introductions they told us to call before coming in, just to make sure the doctor on duty was there as it could be he/she would be out on a house call.  At the time we were dumbstruck at the idea of a doctor really making house calls. 

It was during that same visit we asked about how an ambulance would know where to find us should we call needing an urgent response. The receptionist asked where our home was located and after we described it, she told us not to worry: "I drive the ambulance and I know exactly where you are!"

The Stone House on the Hill

Last year I visited our area's general practitioner, Dr. Sophia (everyone calls her by her first name). She prescribed some medicine and she told me to return the following week. She assured me there would be no charge for the second visit - the first had only been 40 euros ($43US) -- but she cautioned, "Just drop by when you can but call first to make sure I am not out on a house call."

Kalamata street scene

A friend in the village recently had knee replacement surgery in Athens.. It was performed by an orthopedic surgeon who has an office in Kalamata, our area's metropolitan big city, an hour's drive away. In the two weeks that our friend has been home he's had a couple of house calls from his doctor who didn't want him making the trek to the doctor's office.

Humanizing Health Care

Kalamata, Greek Peloponnese

It isn't just house calls that make 'health care' different, it is the entire system of delivery.  We recently decided to have long overdue colonoscopies done by a gastroenterologist in Kalamata, who'd come highly recommended by expat friends.  

We dropped by the doctor's office saying we'd like to schedule appointments (imagine dropping by to schedule something back in the US!) and was told the doctor would call us that evening to discuss them (again, imagine that!). Sure enough, at the appointed 6 pm the doctor called. The appointments were made for two weeks later - no questions about health insurance or payment.

Street scene Kalamata

On the appointed day we appeared at the doctor's office where the procedures are performed. We were checked in together (none of that patient privacy stuff here) and as the doctor walked past he quipped in perfect English, "Who is my next victim?"   

We then met with him where he explained what the procedure would involve. He had three attendants, two nurses and one anesthesiologist.  Hooked to a heart monitor and given oxygen the procedure took about 20 minutes. Following a 30-minute rest, we -- again together -- met with the doctor to review the findings (photos displayed on his computer screen) as he explained what he had seen.  He explained that he'd removed two polyps from each of us which would be sent to Athens for biopsies. 

The cost of the procedure was 130 euros ($140US) each. The biopsies were another 50 euros ($54US) each. The procedure cost range for a colonoscopy at our Washington State Health Care provider is $1,500 - $4,500.

We received a call at 9 pm (still considered afternoon in Greece) 12 days later to tell us the results were negative.  We still need to go by the office and pick up a copy of the results - as here, the patient keeps those records.

And COVID Care. . . 

Winter brings light snow to the Taygetos near us

In February The Scout caught a cold . . .or so we thought because two lab administered rapid tests showed negative results for COVID. So, it was off to Dr. Sophia's that we went on that winter morning for a prescription for 'cold medicine'. She first administered a rapid test and he tested positive which prompted her to send us both to the medical lab down the road and for full-blown PCR tests, even though I had no symptoms.  She admonished us to tell the lab to 'go deep' on the test they administered. 

After getting the test results we were to call her but if his condition worsened before that we were to call immediately. Her business cards include her mobile number and home number.

PCR testing in our village 

Now our village laboratory is a clean, modern facility that adhered to the strictest COVID protocols which meant they came out to the car and administered tests through the open window.  We had been in many times for these tests for travel so were familiar with the technician who came out to greet us.

The Scout said, "We are the Smiths and we need two PCR tests." The technician flashed the big smile for which she is famous and said, "Yes, I knew you were coming - Dr. Sophia just called and she said she had sent you and that I need to 'go deep'!"  She did as she had been told (use your imagination). We tested positive.

Facebook Friends with my doctor and dentist- imagine that?!

Dr. Sophia participates in Clean Mani events

Another advantage of living in a small rural area is that you can be friends with your health care professionals.  Both our Dr. Sophia and our dentist, Dr. Joanna, in the village are Facebook friends of mine as they are with dozens of other patients of theirs in the village. Our Dr. Sophia is a leader in the environmental efforts here and it wouldn't be unusual to find ourselves out cleaning a beach with her. 

Being FB friends does give another avenue of communication. When scheduling an appointment with Dr. Joanna she first asked for a phone number and then said, 'Oh, never mind, if I need to reach you I'll send a message on Messenger!'  

How curiously refreshing to have a health care provider know us as who we are! No longer must we recite birth dates or other identifying numbers when we appear for an appointment.

Health care had been a major consideration when we made the move to Greece. And as with countries everywhere health care varies by region.  We feel particularly lucky to have landed in this area - where doctors still make house calls!

Sunset from our house

We hope this finds you well and send wishes for safe travels where ever you might be heading. We just returned from an island adventure and that will be the next topic I write about - hope you are back with us and bring a friend or two along!

Linking sometime soon with:

 Through My Lens

Sunday, March 10, 2019

That Night I Danced with the Barmaid and other stories

The wine, krasi, as it is called here had flowed freely. The Greek music was a magnet; its pull, irresistible. Napkins tossed into the air fell like raindrops. 'Opa!' we called out. 

It seemed the entire taverna was dancing.  Katerina, the barmaid, was my partner. 
We whirled and twirled together.

It was during one of the whirls and twirls that I was supposed to go solo but I didn't know that until she spun me away from her, letting go of my hand. Instead of a graceful pirouette of some sort, I did a somewhat ungraceful full-body slide across the floor. My slide ended unceremoniously below a table where The Scout was sitting.  He leaned over me, asking, 'What ARE you doing?'

'Dancing,' I replied as I returned to an upright position and continued the fancy footwork into the wee small hours of the morning.

That was shortly after we'd moved to Greece as full-time expat's and I got the dancing out of my system that night.

Our travel bags are much larger than these  since moving to Greece

Last year, after The Scout had managed to pull our two over-stuffed suitcases from the baggage carousel at SeaTac (Washington State's international airport), I tried to roll one away from the crowded area when its weight shifted and instead of letting it fall, I held on.  Thus, I fell  on top of it, drawing stares and concern from fellow passengers. 
Aside from a bruise on my leg, the only thing injured was my pride. 

I've not told either of these stories to you before because they were, in my mind, just silly experiences that are a part of life. But recently I had another experience that got me to thinking about boomer travel and being 'older' ex pats.  I've been pondering the questions now for several weeks:  when are boomers too old to travel or to be expats for that matter?

Fast Forward. . .February 2019

As regular readers know, I turned 65 last July, a milestone birthday, which rebrands you as a 'Medicare person' in the United States. It is, now that I think about it, as much a right of passage as getting a driver's license at age 16 (the license was far more exciting).  Medicare, for those of you outside the States, is a federal medical program for persons 65 and older and younger folks with certain disabilities.

Several months before our recent winter sojourn to the United States I had scheduled an 'annual physical' with my doctor there to take place during our visit. Upon checking in I learned the 'physical' had gone out the window with my youth. I was slated to have a  "Medicare Wellness Exam".

Welcome to Medicare. . .

It quickly became apparent that little focus would be on my physical health but a great deal of focus would be on my mental health and my life environment (keep in mind my environment is rural Greece).

It started off much like a physical - height and weight measured, blood pressure taken. Then. . . oh-oh, a memory test. . .

Yes!! I knocked the ball out of the ballpark!  Score!!  The challenge had been to repeat and then remember, 'train. . .egg. . .hat. . .chair. . .blue' while I  successfully drew a clock with hands positioned at 11:10 and I named off as many animals as I could within 20 seconds (that is a lot of animals, by the way) But I remembered those five words - in order!

Boomer Expats: Square pegs in round holes

No handrails in this olive grove

Midway through the questionnaire that came as part of the wellness exam, I felt I was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Especially the hole that helps define an 'old person' in the United States. We boomer Americans who've chosen a lifestyle outside the confines of our home country, really do live 'differently' from those back in the States.  For example:

Q: Does your home have loose rugs on the floor? (implication, you could trip and fall)
A: Many. We have tiled floors in Greece - those rugs keep your feet from freezing in the winter. And not all rugs sold in Greece have non-slip backings.

Q: Do your stairs lack handrails? 
A: I laughed out loud at that question. We have tons of stairs at our Stone House on the Hill.  And. . .many don't have handrails. That is just the way it is in Greece. None have them in our olive grove and  most olive groves don't even have stairs - we added these after we purchased the house

Rugs warm a winter's tile floor (cold even with heat on)

Q: Do you feel unsteady when you are walking?
A: Hell, yes! Our road washed out two years ago and hasn't been fixed - its surface is terrible. Not to mention many roads in this rural area aren't surfaced and every hiking trail in the area is one of uneven surfaces.

In rural areas everywhere road surfaces are uneven

Q: Have you needed or felt you needed help with laundry or dishes?
A: Okay, now I ask you, what woman in her right mind, no matter what the age, wouldn't like help with those two tasks?

I must note: My expat friends here of boomer age and I have had many laughs when I tell them about this line of questioning. Because these same friends hike, bike, kayak, take yoga classes, swim . . .and dance as part of this lifestyle.

Back to Greece ~ Whew, feeling younger already

Shovels and pitchforks are workout equipment 
We returned to Greece the morning after that appointment. And although it has been two weeks, the memories of that 'Wellness Exam" linger.  I thought of them as I walked over the dips and rises in our storm-damaged road and thought of the many ways one (of any age) could break or twist an ankle. Again as I dug up the vegetable garden alternating between a pitch fork and a shovel I thought how easy it could be to have a heart attack. Again they surfaced  as I moved rugs in the house to mop the floors. And as I climbed the stairs hauling yard debris to the lower level of our grove where the burn pile is located - not a handrail in sight.

Stairway at The Stone House on the Hill
I pondered the possibility that they might have planted a seed of fear, but then decided those pesky questions did serve a purpose: they've made me appreciate even more our decision to live differently; to dance, to travel, to climb stairs without handrails and to walk on uneven surfaces for as long as our old bodies and minds allow us to do so.

And you know what? To the questions: 'Have you fallen in the past year?' and 'Are you worried about falling?'  I answered, "No!" I have far more things to worry about -- like renewing our residency permit - than that!

Springtime has come to Greece

That's it for this week. Spring has come to Greece and with it, new projects at The Stone House on the Hill.   I'll tell you about them next week so hope to see you back here then.

In the meantime, what do you boomer travelers and ex pats think about the impact of aging on your lifestyle. . .or do you think about aging? Leave us a comment below or shoot us an email.

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A London Stopover– On Airline Miles and Hotel Points

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford.
                                -- Samuel Johnson

While song writers seem beguiled about springtime in Paris, we found London to be equally as enchanting. It didn’t take long for this jolly ol’ capital city with a population of more than 8.5 million to wrap us in its charms during our brief visit in May.

Those London phone booths are icons of the city
Because we were returning to the States from Greece earlier than originally planned to deal The Scout’s, medical matter, he was tasked with finding us a reasonable and affordable routing for this rather spur-of-the-moment trip. 

Speaking of icons, there are those double-decker buses as well. . .
The best option he found was flying via London, using some of our accumulated airline miles. (There are no direct flights between Athens and Seattle, so you need to stop somewhere. Sometimes depending on flight connections the layover could be a matter of hours and other times, overnight at least).

We purchased tickets on Aegean Airlines for our trip from Athens to London. We then used Alaska Airlines miles,a regional U.S. carrier, to fly on one of its partners, British Airlines.

Traveler’s Tip: We booked two one-way tickets London – Seattle, in Premium Economy, that rather comfortable section that isn’t quite Business Class but certainly isn’t Economy Class. The price 42,500 air miles PLUS $432US a seat in taxes and fees: (85,000 miles + $864US) AND THEN an additional $169US to select the seats we wanted to sit in – two seat side by the windows (and assure ourselves we weren’t stuck in the middle of a center row).

While all those extra $$$ were equivalent to what we would have paid for a regular economy class seat it does make one wonder about using airline miles for ‘free’ travel.

That London Stopover

London, London, London
It occurred to us that we could make lemonade out of the lemon he’d been handed by using some of our horded hotel points to pay for a stay at the Marriott’s Park Lane Hotel. It’s located across the street from Hyde Park,in the rather posh and privileged Mayfair District.

Traveler’s Tip:  Even using discount sites, the price of a room here hovers at $500 a night, plus another $100 per night in taxes and fees.  We paid nothing more for our room than 180,000 points,(which we’ve earned on previous Marriott stays and credit card spending).

Because we have stayed in Marriott hotels enough nights to qualify for their ‘elite’ level benefits, we had access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge were we ate breakfast daily, and drank happy hour wine and an afternoon espresso drink each day – all complimentary which further saved us a great deal of money. A British pound was at the time equivalent to $1.46US.

PicMonkey Collage
Marriott Park Lane - London
After arriving at Heathrow Airport and caught the Heathrow Express train to Paddington Station, 32 kilometers, or about 20 miles away. Paddington has been the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. The high speed airport ‘shuttle’ trains leave the depart every 15 minutes. More than 16,000 passengers use the train daily.

Catching the train was a snap as they’ve simplified that process since the last time we’d visited London. A young woman was standing just outside baggage claim selling train tickets and we had only to follow signs posted in the airport to find the train platform.  Two round-trip train tickets: $105US

Heathrow Express at Paddington Station
From Paddington it was a short taxi ride to the hotel. Once settled in to our room, we set off to explore.  We walked 33.5 miles in the 4.5 days we were there and next week, we’ll show you some of our routes through London’s neighborhoods.

A London Park
Before signing off this week, we want to thank all of you who wrote emails or comments on last week’s post about The Scout’s trip through the medical worlds of Greece and the U.S.  Your kind wishes and ‘sighs of relief’ were most welcome.

Those ‘medical moments’ whether experienced at home or while traveling do make travel experiences just a bit more precious.  Booking a one-way trip instead of round-trip because you don’t know when you will be able to return was a good reminder to us to keep traveling as far and wide as we can – while we can! In other words:


Hope to see you all back here next week! Until then safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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