Caring for someone in their home means supporting their independence in many ways, and that usually includes their interaction with health care professionals.
As with most parts of in-home caregiving, health care conversations and visits are more productive with a plan. We’ve worked with too many families already who’ve had the “Oops, I forgot to ask” moment. It can cause unnecessary delays in getting the answers or treatment your loved one deserves, and it’s just plain frustrating for all concerned.
One good start is to write things down ahead of time. All of those little things that occur to you over the course of your everyday interaction might add up to something to discuss with the doctor. The assorted aches and pains or difficulties or changes in mobility might be symptoms of a drug interaction or other condition. It’s your doctor’s job to make that decision.
Take notes at the appointment. If you’re not accompanying your family member on the visit, make sure he or she is prepared with a pen and notebook so nothing on your pre-appointment list is overlooked. Most offices are very good about providing after-care notes and other instructions in printed form, but some parts of your conversation with the professionals may not result in a written order.
Even if your loved one is comfortable going to appointments alone, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan, particularly if the discussion might be emotional. We’ve all had the experience of receiving one piece of information that seems to erase everything else that was said before or after it; so having an extra set of ears in the room can increase understanding and eliminate confusion.
We also remind families to bring their calendars to the appointment. Many people rely on digital versions on mobile devices, so you might have your own with you already. Still, a follow-up appointment or scheduling a test might require transportation or just another person to be present, therefore, having that availability easily accessible can save time and trouble.
If the visit includes new prescriptions, be sure to ask about the potential side effects of a new medication so you’ll know what to look for. Also, make sure you understand how the new meds will interact with current prescriptions and even over-the-counter preparations your loved one might use at some point.
Finally, make sure the patient and the rest of her or his caring team understands what the next step is, whether it’s testing or just the next wellness check. It’s important to know what to expect so you’ll be confident knowing when you should notify the doctor of any changes.
Your senior’s independence depends on continued health. With your support, you can be assured that he or she not only is receiving quality health care advice, but is prepared to follow the healthy living steps the professionals recommend.