How to Talk to Your Aging Parent's Doctor
Although many of our aging loved ones are less than enthusiastic about their medical information being shared or discussed with their adult children or caregivers, there are times when our involvement can be critical or beneficial. Despite the many regulations in place in our healthcare system, staying involved in such matters continues to be the responsibility of every caregiver, to ensure safety for our loved ones and quality care is being provided.
Even if your loved one attempts to avoid telling you about doctor appointments or tests needed, often saying things like, "I can do this alone," they be missing medication doses or not reporting new ailments or symptoms in a timely manner. Our recommendation is to let your loved one know that you simply care and want to be there to help when needed. Do not dismiss their claims that they are "fine" or able to "handle it." They may be doing just fine after all, but if you have concerns, here are some helpful tips on staying involved.
Before Your Appointment
Before the doctor's visit, make sure there is one member of the family with whom the doctor can communicate, and in turn that person can share with the rest of the family. Doctors do not have time to relay information among several different family members, asking or delivering the same information. By having that same contact person attend the appointments, information is more likely to be accurate and improve communication.
Always have a list of appropriate needs or questions for the doctor. If possible, send it by fax to the doctor's office ahead of time, so he/she can prep for your loved one's appointment. This can be extremely helpful if you are wanting to cover a sensitive subject, like driving a car, and your loved one is adamant about their abilities. If the doctor addresses questions directly with the patient, they are more likely to listen and heed advice.
This is a good time to secure a HIPAA form for your parent or loved one to sign to grant you permission to be advised of their medical care. A Healthcare Power of Attorney may also be a good idea to secure if decisions need to be made and your loved one is unable to do so for themselves.
During Your Appointment
Be sure to ask questions about anything you do not understand, or ask the doctor to clarify anything your loved one may not understand. Always ask about potential medication side effects and drug interactions. (Sometimes the primary care doctor may be unaware that another doctor has prescribed a medication that may interact with their own prescribed medication.) Ask for the results of any recent medical tests and get copies of them in case you need them for a follow-up or specialist appointment. Be sure to take notes so you can refer back to them if needed.
After the Appointment
Always sit down with your loved one and discuss the appointment and if they had any additional questions or concerns, if there was anything they didn't understand. Don't be afraid to ask them how they like their doctor, and consider a change if they aren't comfortable. Be sure to discuss the appointment details with other family members and/or caregivers to make sure everyone has the information they need.