How to Talk to the Doctor About Your Aging Parents’ Health

As your parents get older, you may not feel prepared to take up the role of caregiver. Bringing a doctor and/or medical professional into this conversation can help by giving you – and your parents –  the facts you require to make informed decisions. Working with your parent’s healthcare providers will also give you the extra support of a professional opinion and some experienced suggestions for how to proceed when creating a senior care plan with treatment options.

As a family caregiver, you may notice changes in health, mood or behavior of your aging parent that should be shared with their doctor.

Here are some suggestions for when working with your parents’ doctors and healthcare team.

First, Talk to Your Parents

Before you establish a relationship with your parents’ doctors, it can be helpful to talk to your parents about it. Listen to any concerns they may have about sharing personal information and assure them of their own agency.

It’s best to talk to your parents early so you can find out how they’d like to handle their future health. Who would they like to share in future medical decisions? How would they like to handle future finances? What are their preferences for living situations, caregiving, etc?

You can do your part by listening well and writing down any questions you have. The goal of this conversation is to understand your parents’ thoughts and feelings so you can come alongside them and support their future health.

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Have All Legal Paperwork Prepared

Paperwork may not be top of mind when it comes to your parent’s healthcare. However, the paperwork your parent fills out determines whether or not you’re allowed to talk to your parents’ doctor about their health. The two main pieces of documentation to have sorted out are health care proxy and consent forms.

1. Health Care Proxy: If your parent signs a medical power of attorney or health care proxy, it means they’re giving you or someone else the authority to make their health care decisions. In the absence of signed documentation, the doctor will assume your loved ones are still making their own medical decisions.

2. HIPAA Consent Forms: This document lets the doctor know who can have access to your parents’ medical information. With signed HIPAA consent forms, the doctor can talk with you and your family members about your parents’ medical condition without them present. If you’re unable to visit the doctor with your parents, this document will help you stay in the loop.

The Importance of Attending Doctor’s Appointments for Aging Parents

Try to attend doctor appointments with your parents whenever possible.  Ask the doctor about how they would like to contact you, and then provide them with a list of different ways you could be reached if there is an emergency.

You will find that doctors like to talk with family and know they are involved in healthcare decisions. You see your parents much more frequently than the doctor and can be incredibly helpful in noticing symptoms and offering personal care.

How to Talk to Your Parent’s Doctor

When attending your aging parent’s doctor appointment, you will be interacting with teams of people including doctors, nurses, and more. These individuals may understand topics and concerns at a more technical level; so, being prepared can help assist you in getting the most information out of the conversion. Two ways to prepare for these conversations include being patient and preparing questions ahead of time.

1. Be Patient: If you can’t go to a doctor’s appointment, you can contact your parents’ primary care physician afterward to follow up. Be patient if you do not get a return phone call right away. Sometimes a member of the doctor’s support staff will be the one to call you back as well.

2. Prepare Questions: When you are not able to attend your parents’ medical visits, see about sending your questions to the doctor ahead of time, whether it’s by email, text  or phone call. This will help the doctor address their bill of health and your concerns during an examination.

Hiring a Care Manager For Assistance

No one can be in two places at once, and it is okay to ask for help. If you are unable to attend your parents’ appointments, then think about hiring a care manager or other professional to go on your behalf. It is advisable that family members and their representative attend the initial interview together, so they can be sure everyone – especially your parents – are comfortable. Once they are on board, they can attend the appointments and provide you with pertinent health information.

Medical Group Options for Aging Parents

As your loved ones get older, they may require more health care. Additional doctors and medical services will be needed to address different aspects of the aging process. Seeing assistance from medical groups can help you to address the changing needs of your aging parents as they arise.

1. Patient Referrals: Most doctors are part of a network, either formal or informal, in which they refer patients to other specialty areas.

2. Health Care Network: Being treated by a medical group that includes all of the necessary specialists can be an advantage as your parent’s age. Their primary care doctor will serve as their healthcare manager and refer them to other doctors in the network for acute care. When those doctors all work in close proximity, it is easier to attend appointments and keep track of follow-up care.

If it’s impossible to get all the medical providers to work in the same group, then it is very important that the care manager, or you, keep notes of the medical appointments and report details to the whole medical team. You should have one file or notebook to document the information. It will be very useful because the information will remain in one place, and there will be a single record for the medical appointments.

How Cornwall Manor Can Help You

Caring for aging parents can be a challenge. At Cornwall Manor, we provide on-site health services such as a visiting physicians’ office, community nurse, campus social worker, therapy, personal care and skilled nursing to provide support for your aging parents’ health needs. For more information about how to work with your parents’ medical care providers, contact us today.

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