Being a family caregiver is both rewarding and challenging. Watching an aging loved one reach their goals and successfully age in place is inspiring. This is especially true you know your efforts are a part of the reason why they are able to make that choice. However, some of the tasks involved in providing care are complex and frustrating. One such task is speaking with medical professionals on behalf of the senior.

Older adults often find it difficult to speak with doctors, nurses and other care providers independently. This is especially true for senior with even the earliest stages of dementia. Those with more complex medical problems also struggle here. Sometimes, simply being willing to speak up is challenging when a senior views a professional as an authority figure. This often results in the responsibility to ensure the senior’s health and well being falling on caregivers. Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley offers this advice for family caregivers who want to more effectively communicate with their loved one’s team of professionals.

Develop a Relationship with the Care Provider

Unless your loved one’s doctor knows who you are and how to communicate with you, finding ways to talk to them about sensitive topics is often complicated. Because of this, it is important to spend some time developing a relationship with these doctors and nurses. This helps the professionals to feel comfortable speaking with you. It also allows you to better understand their individual mannerisms, ways of speaking and bedside manner.

The best way to develop a relationship with your loved one’s doctor is to try to attend as many appointments as possible. When you cannot be there, ask your loved one to share the information the doctor provides. Then, follow up with a phone call if you have questions. If your loved one has dementia or is otherwise unable to accurately share information, ask a friend, family member or professional caregiver to escort them to appointments you cannot attend. When the doctor sees that you are taking proactive steps to remain involved in care, it is more likely that they will value your contributions. This often helps them feel more inclined to develop a strong relationship with you.

HIPAA

In order for you to ask questions about your loved one’s medical condition or receive information from the practice, it is important to follow HIPAA guidelines. The practice is legally bound to do this. It is for the protection of your loved one. Make sure you are included in all HIPAA paperwork as an authorized recipient of information. Do this before it is time to speak with medical professionals. This helps you to avoid any delays or confusion.

How to Handle Questions

Many medical conditions are complex. As a result, it is sometimes difficult for seniors to fully understand them and know the best ways to manage them. Overcome this by asking a lot of questions. As your loved one’s caregiver, speak up at the doctor’s office when medical diagnoses are explained or medical-speak terminology is used. If you do not understand something, ask about it. Even if a question seems silly, ask it. When faced with a difficult diagnosis, ask about options for treatments and care. Take notes so you have something to review and refer back to after the appointment.

Sometimes, questions come up after family caregivers step outside of the doctor’s office. Keep a note pad handy and write down any questions you think of after a visit. This helps you to not forget to ask them at the next appointment.

Encourage Your Loved One to Speak Up

While having a family caregiver by their side helps seniors to better understand medical conditions, it is still important for seniors to speak up for themselves. Some messages are respected more when they come directly from the patient’s mouth. Doctors often also look at concerns in a different way when the senior expresses them. Encourage your loved one to use their own voice at medical appointments. When possible, let them speak first. Then, you can ask any follow up questions or further advocate until you and your loved one get the information you need.

Learning to communicate with your loved one’s medical team is often difficult, but mastering this critical skill makes a real difference in the senior’s quality of life. Develop a relationship with your aging loved one’s doctors and nurses. Ask questions, and encourage the senior to do the same. You are your aging loved one’s most important advocate. Value this role and make the most of it.