10 Tips for Effective Communications with a Senior Loved One’s Doctor

It has been shown that seniors who attend medical appointments with their family caregivers get more information from the doctor about treatment recommendations, illnesses and medications than seniors who go unattended.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, supported by the National Institutes of Health, suggests that family caregivers are able to be involved in a vital information exchange when they go with Medicare beneficiaries to doctor visits.

Have you gone with your senior loved one? Did you feel comfortable talking things over with the doctor? Did you prepare your senior about the upcoming visit, listening to their health concerns or worries before going?

This study encourages family caregivers to ask the senior what role they want you, their caregiver, to play and what goal they hope to achieve from the office visit.

Tips for Effective Communication with Your Senior’s Healthcare Providers:

  1. Because good communication allows you to be a better caregiver, be engaged in the moment. Be an attentive listener and take notes about what you are told. Make eye contact with the healthcare provider.
  2. Don’t put the healthcare provider on the defensive, have an open mind and keep a positive attitude.
  3. Be prepared for your visit. Have your questions ready. Have medical knowledge about your loved one so that you can offer it to the healthcare provider. You may want to keep a journal with medical history, immunization record, medication information, vital information such as blood sugar or blood pressure readings, and recent medical symptoms.
  4. Don’t be afraid to clarify any information you do not understand. Sometimes medical terminology is used by healthcare professionals that lay people don’t understand. Health professionals often don’t realize caregivers aren’t familiar with these terms but should be happy to explain once they are asked.
  5. Ask for treatment information, times when drugs are to be taken, explanations of a medical diagnosis or reasons for recommendations to be repeated so that you understand. Repeat the information back to be sure you heard it correctly and ask the healthcare provider to validate your understanding.
  6. If you have a concern or disagree, communicate your idea or questions until you and the healthcare professional feel you have reached a consensus for the benefit of your senior.
  7. Ask if there is help available or other resources if you feel you might need them after your discussion.
  8. Thank the members of your senior’s healthcare team for their support and encouragement to maintain a strong team for your senior’s health.
  9. Be respectful of the medical team’s time. Be patient, as we all know the medical team sees many people each day and the office is usually busy. Become familiar with the medical office-who to call, what number to call for problems or billing questions and when is the best time to call or make appointments.
  10. Be sure your senior follows the medical advice and instructions you are both given. Keep your appointments as scheduled.

When you help your senior loved one understand his or her medical treatment plan and become a team member with your senior, you will both feel better!

Do you have any strategies to add to this list that you find helpful when you take your senior to the doctor? We would love to hear what you have found helpful!

3 thoughts on “10 Tips for Effective Communications with a Senior Loved One’s Doctor”

  1. Normally I do not read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very nice article.

  2. Great article!

    My client, SeniorCareSociety.com, offers a valuable (and free) tool for keeping all of this important information organized, centralized and secure. It’s called the Family Portal. You can learn more about it here: http://seniorcaresociety.com/content/portal.html.

    One of the Portal’s features, “The Journal,” is an electronic diary that allows you to track, categorize and share information on things like medications, hospital stays, and health status. The calendar function is useful for tracking events such as appointments, meetings, family get togethers and caregiving schedules. These aspects are particularly helpful when it comes to organizing the information you get during a doctor’s visit with a senior loved one.

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