Are you a caregiver who helps take a family member to their doctor’s appointments? While seeing a medical professional is essential to getting formal diagnoses, prescription refills, and treatment plans, it’s not always the most pleasant experience. Poor bedside manner, bad communication, and rushed appointments can leave anyone, much less overloaded caregivers and their loved ones, feeling frustrated, confused, and helpless.
The truth is that numerous problems can arise from the disconnect between caregivers, patients, and healthcare providers. For example, a medication side effect you didn’t know about may lead to a life-threatening fall or lack of communication after a hospital discharge can lead to a quick rehospitalization.
If you find yourself struggling to advocate on behalf of your loved one with their doctor, try these 5 tips for the next doctor’s appointment:
Prepare a list of questions and concerns
Want to make sure you cover all your questions and concerns at the doctor’s appointments? Write them down and bring them with you. You may even consider making a copy and handing it to your loved one’s doctor at the appointment to cover together.
A formal list not only helps you stay on track and get some answers but it shows your loved one’s doctor that you are interested, invested, and have an agenda to cover before the appointment is over. It’s important to save your questions and concerns for the end of the check-up unless something related comes up during the evaluation. This allows the doctor to formally take notes for your loved one’s chart and then fully focus their attention on your conversation.
Did you know that while most older adults take at least one prescription medicine, less than half actually adhere to their medicine schedule as prescribed? Various reasons play a role including confusion, prescription costs, poor communication with providers, and complicated medication regimens.
Depending on whether a prescription is brand new or whether you are trying to find easier ways to help your loved one take all their medications, consider asking these questions:
What does this medicine do exactly?
Can we simplify the medicine schedule?
What side effects can we expect?
Will this interact with my loved one’s ________ (medical condition, other medications, previous surgery)?
Is there a different version of this medicine (i.e. liquid instead of a pill)?
Could an orthotic aid help with pain management (i.e. using a wrist brace for carpal tunnel or arthritis: https://www.vivehealth.com/blogs/resources/wrist-brace)?
Ask for help
It may sound silly, but literally asking your loved one’s doctor for help can be a revealing experience. If you are struggling as a caregiver because your loved one is becoming harder and harder to move and transfer, because you’re having difficulty managing their daily tasks, or because getting them out to various appointments is next to impossible, ask for help.
In addition to diagnosing and treating your loved one, their doctor is also responsible for connecting you with appropriate resources including:
Home health assistance (as covered by insurance)
Mobility aids and other durable medical equipment
Wound care treatment
Mobile medical testing (mobile x-rays, in-home blood testing, etc.)
Medical devices and care training (i.e. for catheters, pacemakers, etc.)
They may also be able to recommend local respite services or caregiver support networks for you personally to help ease some of the burdens of your caregiving job.
Practice Home Monitoring
If your loved one is living with one or more chronic conditions, daily monitoring of vitals and symptoms can equip them and you with data points that could help the doctor in updating treatment plans, addressing medication side effects, and more.
Does your loved one have high blood pressure? Write down their blood pressure readings daily and alert the doctor to spikes and drops. Same goes for tracking blood sugar readings with type 2 diabetes or recording fevers and other symptoms following an infection.
Call with questions
Did you leave the doctor’s appointment and remember a question you forgot to ask? Did your loved one experience a recurring symptom a week after their doctor’s appointment? Don’t wait until their next appointment to ask. Give the doctor’s office a call and either leave them a message to call you back or speak with one of their nurses on staff.
Your loved one’s doctor isn’t only on the job when you are in the office. In fact, the goal of health care is to keep your loved one out of the doctor’s office and hospital as much as possible. When in doubt, always play the better safe than sorry card. Keeping communication open and frequent with your loved one’s doctor will benefit you both in the long-run.