Do you accompany your aging parents to their doctor visits? Do you feel like you need to, but can’t (distance or time)? Here are some ideas to help make the most of the visit in either case.
Our elderly parents are often thrown off their game by a doctor visit. They may not feel well; they may be tired from waiting; they might feel rushed by the doctor in a perpetual hurry. They might have forgotten why they made the appointment three months ago. Many things can contribute to a less than ideal visit and/or resulting confusion afterwards.
Here are 4 ways to make the most of the visit:
- Make sure they have all the information together ahead of time that the office will request when they arrive. They’ll always need their Medicare card, supplemental insurance card, list of medications and dosages, ID card, and health history. If any of this is hard for them to remember, put it together on one sheet and leave it in their wallet for easy retrieval.
- Help them put together a list of symptoms, questions, concerns and/or issues that they want to discuss with the doctor. In an earlier blog and in my book, I suggest keeping a notebook so they’ll have continuity of previous visits, plus they can write down questions and concerns as they come up (not just prior to the doctor visit). If the list is long, you might like to give a copy of this list to the nurse or assistant when they escort you to the exam room. That way, the doctor can have a chance to look it over prior to the exam.
- Make notes on the list as the doctor addresses them. If you can’t be there and your parent doesn’t want to (or can’t), fax a copy to the front desk or medical assistant before the appointment and ask that they fax or email it back with the doctor’s response.
- If any new prescriptions are given or existing meds changed, ask the doctor to write down the new instructions for the meds and what the med is intended to treat. This way, you can give it to the pharmacist and ask for them to verify it doesn’t conflict with other meds or conditions. Plus, your parent will have the explanation written down if the Rx is sent electronically.
Without a “treatment team” in eldercare, you almost always end up being the coordinator, the advocate and the collective memory. Even if your parent does have coordinated care (I doubt it!), you still need to be the captain of the ship to make sure your elders are getting the care they need, for the symptoms they have, in a timely and clear manner.
If your parent is being a pill about your help with their medical care, offer to order an extra vaccination or even repeat a recent colonoscopy .