Caregivers often find themselves on the other side of the desk looking into the face of a health care provider. You might ask yourself: “What am I doing here?”
Communication with the healthcare team is an important part of the healing process (and sometimes overall health) of your senior loved one.
It can be confusing to hear what the doctor has to say and try to understand the words being said, not to mention being sure you ask all the questions you should be asking. How many of us get in the car to drive home and remember SO many questions we wanted to ask but didn’t?
It has been found that effective physician-patient communication can lead to improved health outcomes. In other words, when we have clear and open conversations with the doctor, we can take better care of ourselves and our seniors.
Advocate for Senior Loved Ones’ Needs
Remember, when you are visiting a healthcare professional with a medical concern for your senior, aging alone does not cause illness and getting older shouldn’t mean living with pain. Therefore, be an advocate for your senior loved one when you visit any member of the healthcare team to get the treatment your senior needs.
No two seniors are the same, so don’t let the healthcare team treat your loved one like others. Each person, regardless of age, has unique physical characteristics and needs. Many seniors are more active than you might think while others may be very sedentary. Appearances can be deceptive.
Many seniors have a specific idea about the “doctor” and don’t want to waste their time or complain too much, which may lead to inadequate information sharing. That means you as the family caregiver have to step in and fully express the situation to the doctor to get the best diagnosis. YOU can ask the tough questions your senior loved one is afraid to ask such as “is surgery needed?” or “how much is that going to cost me?”.
You will likely be surfing the internet for medical information before your senior’s appointment and have more questions than your loved one. Family caregivers seek medical information online more often for others than for themselves.
Take Time for Both of You to Understand
As the caregiver you can moderate the timing of the visit so that your senior is not rushed and has time to get questions asked and answered in a way you both can understand. Healthcare professionals can often be in a hurry to see everyone timely and may need to be encouraged by you to spend a few extra minutes. But don’t monopolize their time either; they probably have an office full of people waiting so make them feel the extra time was well spent.
Ask the healthcare provider to explain any terms you or your senior don’t understand, especially abbreviations and jargon with which your senior may be unfamiliar. It’s not only okay to ask for clarification – – it’s a must!
Help the healthcare provider communicate effectively with your senior if he or she has a vision or hearing impairment by giving the provider clues for optimal interactions such as ”talk into the left ear”.
Be aware of all medications and dosages your senior takes. Also know his or her medical history in order to share. It is a good idea to keep a journal to record this type of pertinent information including when immunizations were given, eating habits, functional abilities, daily activities, advance directives (they are in place, right?), and insurance information.
The better prepared you are to be a part of your senior loved one’s healthcare team, the better your senior loved one’s health and wellness will remain over the years.