When you take an elderly parent to a doctor's appointment, you find yourself in a variety of situations. You're now more than a worried family member; you're also a caregiver and a medical advocate. Our advice can aid you in navigating the system and assisting your parent or family member who is receiving care.
Hundreds of millions of family carers are in need of assistance.
While most of us aren't equipped to handle these responsibilities, we're not alone: about 40 million people in the United States are responsible for family members. They're learning as they go, just like you. And, for good reason, veterans know that planning is crucial when taking a parent to the doctor. "The time you have with a doctor is limited, perhaps 20 or 30 minutes. To fit as much as possible into your appointment, you'll need to be efficient and organized, "Dr Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of gerontology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard affiliate, agrees.
The following are 10 suggestions to help you stay on track before, during, and after your appointment.
Information to disclose or collect prior to medical appointments
Call beforehand to let them know you'll be accompanying them. Find out if you'll be permitted to enter the exam room and if your parents will be required to sign a form allowing the doctor to speak with you. Dr Salamon advises, "Tell the office if your parent has named you as their health care proxy—the person who will speak for them if they are unable to speak for themselves." If this is the case, please share the document.
Ask your parents for some basic information. To converse intelligently with the doctor and office personnel, you'll need to know their medical history. This includes any current or previous medical issues, surgeries, current drugs and supplements, and any prescription sensitivities. If your parent is unable to assist you, see if another member of your family has the answers.
Prepare documentation ahead of time. Some medical offices need new and even existing patients to complete documentation that includes medical history, insurance information, and current symptoms. That takes time and is difficult for senior parents who may be confused or have arthritis that makes writing difficult. Inquire about the possibility of having documentation mailed or downloaded. Then, before your appointment, finish the papers.
Gather information to give to the doctor. Is your parent taking his or her meds as prescribed? Have you noticed any memory lapses? Is it true that the bills are being paid? Is the trash being collected? Is your parent able to walk with the help of an assistive device or by leaning on furniture? Is your mother or father eating, bathing, or conversing with others on a daily basis? "Dr Salamon inquires.
On the day of your medical appointment,
Make a list of your worries. Make a note of your parent's symptoms, queries, and other medical concerns in bullet points. You might also include any signs you've observed in your parent, such as trouble completing daily tasks. Make your list succinct and to the point. "You can give it to the doctor when you come in for your appointment. It's even better if you send it a few days ahead of time "According to Dr Salamon.
All medications, vitamins, and other supplements should be placed in a bag. Bring these to the appointment so that the doctor is aware of your parent's medications and dosages. "It also allows me to see if I'm taking too many meds. I've seen two bottles of the same prescription - a brand name and a generic — and the individual is taking both without realizing it, for example, "According to Dr Salamon.
Decide who will be speaking. Talk to your mother or father about how much interaction you should have with the doctor before going to the visit. "Don't expect to do all the talking, and don't expect to stay silent the entire time. Inquire about your parent's preferences "According to Dr Salamon. "Do you mind if I speak up if there's a discrepancy in the information?"
Always treat your parents with respect. Do not treat your parent as if they are a child, and do not condemn them in front of the doctor. Dr. Salamon says, "Use words in a gentle, helpful way." "'Mom, remember you started taking that drug seven months ago?' If a parent is unsure about a medication, say, 'Mom, remember you started taking that medicine seven months ago?' 'Mom, I can't believe you don't know your own prescriptions!' don't say. It's a source of embarrassment. Assist your parent in maintaining their dignity."
Make a mental note of everything. Take notes on the doctor's observations, recommendations, and instructions. Also, make a note of the responses to your worries and questions.
After the visit to the doctor,
Keep in touch. If the doctor gives you instructions, make a note of them and put them somewhere visible in your parents' home. Also, jot your notes down or print them out and offer them to your parents. Ascertain that your parent receives any recommended medications and understands how to use them. Make a note on your parent's calendar of upcoming appointments or testing.
In order to communicate with the doctor, ask your parents if you can manage their patient portal account. This could be more efficient than trying to communicate over the phone (remember to identify yourself as the adult child).
Also, make sure your mother or father is aware of the treatment plan's following steps. You've been assigned to the care team, "according to Dr. Salamon. "It's a big responsibility, and your parents are counting on you."