The team of professionals serving the medical needs of your aging parent or parents is likely to be vast and varied, which means that as primary caregiver, you’ll need to develop a good working relationship with dozens of nurses, doctors, and technicians. That can be a challenge.
There are some aspects, such as individual personalities and how mom and dad feel about a given care provider that aren't likely to budge, but the way you approach certain facets of senior health care—information gathering, frequent interactions and more—will make all the difference. If you're anxious to make a favorable first impression and keep the lines of communication wide open, here are a few tips that can help you be a model ally in your parent's care regimen.
Documentation Is Always a Good Idea
From writing down questions you may have about your parent's condition or treatment to taking notes on important information from the doctor, recording your interactions with the care team can help clarify just about anything.
Bring a pad of paper and a pen to consultations with the medical team, and if you have worries or notice symptoms you'd like to ask about, make a note of the date and time they occurred. The National Family caregivers Association advises that this method will keep you from reaching for words or rambling when you get time to talk with a doctor or other caregiver.
Appoint a Single Point of Contact
It's only natural that everyone in the family will want to know how your parent is doing, but fielding questions and calls from multiple fronts simultaneously can burn through patience and goodwill. Gather the family and discuss who would be most appropriate to be the "face" of the family to the doctor, and the one to call and update in a medical event. This individual can then disseminate important information to the rest of the family, preventing the medical team from having to repeat the same things over and over.
Make Sure You Can Legally Discuss Medical Information
HIPPA protections are put in place to ensure patient privacy, but if they pop up unexpectedly when a parent is admitted to the hospital or rehab center, it can be a real headache for both you and your parent's medical team. AARP recommends that caregivers prepare documents such as advanced health care directives and information releases for their parents ahead of time to keep red tape to a minimum and ensure informed decisions.
Know Who Is Caring for Your Parent
No one likes to be treated as their job title alone, so make a little time for small talk and get to know the doctors, nurses, X-ray techs and other medical team members when taking your parent to an appointment. Learning names—and maybe bringing along a well-placed box of donuts, if they're allowed—will help the medical team recognize you and your parent on subsequent visits. Learning and working with the schedule of a hospital or other senior health care provider will cement a positive perception, as well—no one likes someone who is always rushing in during the last five minutes of visiting hours, after all.
Here’s the Bottom Line:
In a nutshell, you need to educate yourself about your parent's condition, the team addressing it, and your availability to discuss data.
Put even more polish on your interactions by communicating clearly and directly, keeping angry outbursts or frustration controlled and realizing that the people involved in your parent's care plan are human beings, too. While medical issues can be trying, especially when they affect loved ones, never forget that the doctors, nurses and caregivers working with your parent have the same goal as you: keeping your mom or dad healthy and happy in their golden years.