As mom gets older, it's likely that you'll find yourself taking an active part in her healthcare—working with her primary care providers to make sure that she gets the best treatment and that you recognize when it might be time to look into assisted living services. These individuals know more about how to help your parents keep living well than anyone, and it pays to spend the time and effort to form a good working relationship.
So, just how do you go about doing that? Here are some ways that you can get to know mom’s providers and be the best advocate for her needs.
Get the Proper Paperwork Completed
The first step is to ensure that your mother consents to you being involved with their medical decisions. This often means they must sign a document called a HIPAA agreement which gives the physician permission to discuss medical issues with you.
Decide Who’s in Charge
When adult children step in as caregiver, it can cause friction with a parent who is used to being in control. For this reason, it’s best to have a frank discussion with mom or dad before getting in the car to head to a doctor’s appointment. Make sure that you know exactly why you’re headed to the doctor and what you plan to do during the appointment. For example, mom may need help understanding why she’s been prescribed a new medication and when it should be taken. In this case, your role would be note taker. If your parent has exhibited negative health symptoms, talk about them beforehand. Don’t wait to bring them up during the appointment. This can cause agitation and make parents feel blindsided. In addition, unless a parent is unable to comprehend any part of the appointment, let them have some time alone with their physician.
Avoid Arguments in the Office
Sometimes the problem is that parents won’t bring up issues that they are having and get angry when their adult children do. An easy way to solve this is to create a list of issues or questions that you would like the physician to discuss and email or fax it to them before the visit. This way, parents feel like a respected physician is bringing up issues instead of an adult child tattling on them.
Symptoms, such as how mom feels or the type of pain experienced, are vital information for a healthcare provider. While a medical exam will reveal many clues as to a diagnosis, it’s often the symptoms that are verbally communicated which make the real difference. Talk with mom or dad regularly about how they feel. If they complain about pain, dizziness, confusion or other unusual symptoms, note the day and time it occurred. Keep records so that you can provide the information to the physician. Some of the questions you can anticipate from a physician include whether the symptoms are constant, and does anything make the symptoms better or worse?
Keep Doctors Informed
As your parent ages, they are likely to accumulate a number of physicians and specialists. Unfortunately, these individuals don’t talk with one another, so it’s your job to update each one on developments since the last visit. For example, if your parent lives in an assisted living facility, they may see an onsite physician for non-emergency issues like a cold. Relay this to the primary care physician at the next visit. In addition, take a detailed list of medications that each physician has prescribed.
Forming a solid relationship with your aging parent’s medical providers helps you feel better about the aging process and makes them feel more secure as well. It can also help when it's time for mom or dad to move into an assisted living apartment because the entire team is looking out for their best interest.