Sunday, November 22, 2020

Talking to Your Parent’s Doctor

Here are some tips and tricks that family caregivers can use to ensure doctors are well-informed while their loved ones’ dignity remains intact. Start with the following strategies, but keep in mind that effective tactics will vary depending on a senior’s personality and medical concerns.

Get Proper Authorizations

Keep in mind that few doctors will talk to you without an appointment, and you’ll need the proper HIPAA authorization and valid medical power of attorney (POA) document to have a comprehensive discussion about a loved one’s condition and medical care. Have these three legal documents prepared and provide copies to all physicians involved in your parent’s care.

Talk With Your Loved One Ahead of Time

Explain that doctors these days respect and appreciate an educated patient. Our elders grew up in an age when doctors were put on pedestals and there was little meaningful patient-physician interaction. Reminding them that they have some power during these appointments may encourage them to be more honest and forthcoming.

Identify Your Role as an Advocate

Remind your loved one that you are on their side and that their safety and health are your number one priority. Try to establish trust. This isn’t always possible, though, since some elders become suspicious of everyone’s motives. All you can do is try.

Ask to talk to the Doctor One on One Beforehand

Alert them to your loved one’s impressive acting abilities and discuss any symptoms and problematic behaviors you have observed at home. This could be an in-person conversation or a telephone call.

Send Documentation

Another option for communicating with the doctor is to write and send them a letter or email ahead of the appointment noting your concerns. This way, the doctor is prepared with the facts when you see them. They can then mention these issues in a tactful way, pursue additional testing, or suggest a referral to a specialist without revealing you as the inside source of information or being misled by your loved one’s version of things.

Keep a Diary of Observations

I can't stress this one enough!

Consider attaching the notes that you’ve kept over a week or two to your letter that indicates the dates and times of new or worsening behaviors or health issues that concern you. Again, this will enable you to share detailed information with the doctor without blatantly contradicting or embarrassing your loved one during the appointment.

Bring a Medication List

Make a complete list of every prescription, over-the-counter medication, herbal supplement, and vitamin your loved one takes, including dosages. Instead of composing a list, some caregivers simply put all their loved one’s pill bottles in a bag and bring them to the appointment. This complete account helps the doctor spot drug interactions, troubleshoot adverse side effects, and prevent overmedication.

Keep Your Parent Involved

Medical professionals are notoriously busy, but during the visit, make sure the doctor interacts with your loved one. Some physicians will look over their notes and then speak directly to the family caregivers since it’s faster and easier to get straight answers to questions. However, you are there to support your loved ones, take notes, and contribute to the improvement of their care plan. Taking over the appointment will only build resentment and cause your loved one to shut down further. Yes, in some cases where an elder is no longer capable of communicating with the physician, their caregiver must take a more active role in appointments. Nevertheless, a senior still deserves the dignity of being treated as an adult patient and participating in their own care as much as possible, no matter how confusing or childish their behavior may sometimes be.

I hope these tips are helpful to you, keeping clear communication with the primary physician is of the utmost importance to be able to provide great care for your loved one.

We are on this bumpy road together, you are not alone!
Be Prepared, Be Informed, Be Empowered.
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