Medical Notetakers: At the Doctor’s Office When Family Caregivers Can’t

Ever kick yourself because you can’t be there when your senior loved one goes to the doctor or other healthcare provider and you feel you’re going to miss an important piece of information that could really make a difference in their health?

Family caregivers all have regrets at one time or another about not being able to get away from work or travel to their location to be there for and with them. It’s part of caring and worrying.

Did you ever wish you could be a fly on the wall when your senior is meeting with the doctor? Sometimes our seniors don’t want us to come someplace where we really could help them due to embarrassment, independence or a desire not to further ‘burden’ you with their needs.

If you are a long distance caregiver, there might be many times that you wish you could have accompanied your senior to their important appointments. Information they might miss in your absence could make a big difference in their medical care, such as medication changes, allergies or history details that you could clarify if you were in the loop.

Getting the provider’s instructions straight from them might also help you ensure you senior understands and follows the plan.

Another Pair of Ears Is Here!

We recently learned of a service that is available for you and your senior — medical notetakers!

We are familiar with this skill from our own family experience, though in an education context, and realized right away this could be a great solution for family caregivers.

Now you can hire a qualified professional to be another set of ears for you and your senior when you can’t go or decide it is best not to go with your senior, especially to a medical appointment.

Medical Notetaker: What Is It?

A medical notetaker can be a resource and help family caregivers be advocates for seniors. One would accompany your senior to a doctor’s appointment and listen. They record the information about what the doctor says, answers to questions and even what your senior asked.

They are not medically trained, therefore only take down the information. Using a pen and paper they jot down the conversation. They don’t interject questions, comments or reminders — only listen and write.

They can remind your senior if they are aware of a specific question that needs an answer if it is inadvertently forgotten by your senior, but won’t ask themselves. They are a resource for your senior but they don’t get between the senior and the doctor.

After the notes have been recorded, they can be shared with the family caregiver and senior. This way the information will be remembered, any directions will not be forgotten, and the family member kept up to date on medications and medical progress.

Medical Notetaker Role

In some senior living arrangements, specifically villages, notetakers are volunteers who provide this service directly to the members of the community. They may also be their mode of transportation getting them to and from the appointment.

Note takers can take the worry out of appointments for your senior who might be afraid to miss vital information or have trouble remembering all the details. It can be added peace of mind for long distance caregivers who can’t always be there but want to be a part of the healthcare team.

Note takers can also offer a shoulder to lean on so that the senior doesn’t have to go it alone. They will remain present for the physical assessment too if the senior desires (only if requested by the way). They can help seniors in and out of the car, the building, their clothes, and feel more comfortable with the entire process if your senior is not fully independent due to arthritis, hearing loss or disability. The presence of the note taker could also help your senior communicate because they will be more at ease not having to remember all the details and medical terms to report back to caregivers.

Notetaker Confidentiality

Protection of our personal information is important in many aspects of our lives, maybe nowhere more than information about our health and the care we are receiving from our healthcare providers.

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule establishes standards for the protection of our healthcare information by our providers. Maintaining their HIPAA obligations may make doctors hesitant to allow an unrelated notetaker in seniors’ appointments unless there are assurances the notetakers understand and will uphold the security of what they see, hear and write.

If there are not yet professional notetakers for medical appointments they likely will exist soon. Regardless, when arranging for someone to accompany and take notes for a senior loved one it is important to know upfront the notetaker will maintain appropriate security.

Great Family Caregiver Resource

We think that this is a great idea and we hope that it catches on perhaps as a service offered by home health agencies much the same as a companion or shopper. This would be a very helpful service and one more detail that could help your senior age in place.

Do you know of anyone providing this service in your area? Have you ever used a medical note taker? We would love to hear about your experiences.