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CD-9 Codes

Excerpt from Daily Cures, Wisdom for Healthy Aging by Connie Mason Michaelis

When I was working with durable medical equipment (canes, wheelchairs, oxygen, etc.), I learned about ICD codes. You would be amazed at how important these numbers are in our healthcare system. ICD-9 is short for International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (not sure what the 9 is about). It is the Dewey Decimal system for healthcare. Everything that you’ve ever had a doctor diagnose has a specific code. There are over 14,400 codes, and it is growing daily. Most importantly, insurance companies use these codes for billing. If you have an ingrown toenail, there is a code. Actually, there are eight different codes for an ingrown toenail diagnosis. If you look up heart attack, there are 500 unique codes!

It is my observation that the number one healthcare issue for seniors today does NOT have an ICD-9 code. I’ve looked for it, and so far, I’ve found nothing. I don’t think it has even been recognized as a disease. All the side effects of this health issue have a code. Cognitive decline has 113 codes. Failure to thrive, depression, and paranoia have 100’s of codes. The problem I’m talking about is loneliness. I believe it is the number one mental and physical health issue in the senior population. If a person were suffering from starvation, there would be a proper diagnosis and treatment. It would be considered neglect to allow another person to starve. But when an individual is starved for companionship, friendship, and human interaction, we may be guilty of ignoring it. Physicians treat the symptoms with medications, but the underlying cause is so much more. The circumstances which create loneliness can be addressed. Isolation, loss of family, deteriorating neighborhoods, dependency on technology, etc., create a human contact desert. There are senior living options and networks that can solve these issues. The responsibility lies with each of us because one of these days, we may be the victim of this disease.

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