Tips for Individuals and Caregivers
Make the most of your medical appointments by being prepared. Even if your doctor gives you time and attention, appointments are brief by nature and it can be overwhelming to ensure you cover the pertinent information and absorb what you are being told. Here are some Aging Wisely tips for being a good medical advocate for you or someone you love at those doctor’s appointments:
• Prepare some notes regarding: any recent symptoms or concerns (try to jot down information when you are experiencing issues, i.e. what it feels like, when it happens, what occurs, frequency and when you first noticed it).
• Prepare a list of top questions. Be realistic about what can be covered and if you have more extensive needs, you may want to forewarn the office staff when making the appointment that you have several questions or concerns so they can plan accordingly.
• Feel free to take notes. Tell the doctor (especially if you are the “third party”, not the patient), “I am going to take some notes so that I understand everything you are telling me and can make sure not to forget any of your instructions”. As patient advocates for many years, we can tell you that physicians are understanding and appreciative because they want patients (or those that are assisting the patient) to follow through properly.
• In those notes, indicate any follow up or instructions given so you have a checklist to follow. If anything is not clear, ask for clarification.
• Consider using an organizing system to manage medical records, history and tracking. An electronic/online system offers many advantages in consistency and access (read more in our post about personal health record systems). Aging Wisely uses a system called Caregiver’s Touch for our clients to ensure care continuity, which can be quickly accessed by caregivers online and via a mobile app.
Some other important considerations to ensure the best medical care and continuity for elders or anyone experiencing chronic illness or managing health issues:
• As a patient potentially facing a serious diagnosis, going through major testing or managing multiple or major conditions, always consider having an advocate along with you. It can be very emotional and having someone to focus on the practicalities and to be a sounding board is invaluable. As a family member, it might even help to have someone else along as you may also be too emotional upon hearing a diagnosis or prognosis to manage the questions and advocacy role.
• Review with your attorney to ensure you have the up-to-date legal documents that will allow a trusted person to handle your needs should you no longer be able (Healthcare Surrogate, Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for financial/practical matters).
• If you wish for your loved one to be able to get test results and other information to assist you in managing your care, ask the provider what paperwork you need to complete (most now have this built in to patient paperwork with an area you can sign allowing someone to have access and ensuring the office complies with patient privacy laws).
• Learn more about how professional patient advocates can help you and your family. If you are a caregiver at a distance from aging parents/loved ones, get peace of mind by hiring one of our professional geriatric care managers/patient advocates to attend appointments, advocate and communicate to family members.
CONTACT US TODAY to learn more about eldercare advice, patient advocacy and other ways we can help you in Aging Wisely.