As your parents age, 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.
As a family member, you may notice changes in health, mood or behavior that should be shared with your parents’ doctor.
Here are some communication suggestions for working with your parents’ doctors.
Have All Legal Paperwork Prepared
Give your doctor copies of your parents’ signed medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy. That way, the doctor knows who in the family is for making the health care decisions. In the absence of this information, the doctor will assume your parents are still making their own medical decisions.
Your parents should give the doctor a list of the family members who have access to their medical information. With signed consent forms, the doctor can talk with you and your family members about your parents’ medical condition without them present.
Understand the Importance of Doctor’s Appointments for Aging Parents
Try to attend appointments with your parents and their physician 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 members and know they are involved in healthcare decisions.
Know How to Talk to Your Parents’ Doctor
If you can’t go to an appointment, you can contact your parents’ physician afterwards 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.
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 your concerns while examining your parent.
Ask for Help If Required
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 senior 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 information.
A Medical Group Can Be Helpful for Aging Parents
As your parents get older, they may require more health care. Additional doctors and medical services will be needed to address different aspects of aging. Most doctors are part of a network, either formal or informal, in which they refer patients to other specialty areas.
Being treated by a medical group that includes all of the necessary specialists can be an advantage as your parents 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 a 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.
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 parents’ health needs. For more information about how to work with your parents’ medical care providers, contact us today.