INALA Conversations: Talking with Doctors (Part II)

Starting a conversation about health, finances and living situations with a loved one can be difficult- but it doesn’t have to be. The INALA Conversations series is a resource to help prepare you for those discussions. Let us help guide you through these important conversations with some helpful tips and insight. Positive communication is key!

Part II in the Talking with Doctors series focuses on becoming an advocate for your parent.

Here are some tips for becoming your parent’s advocate with their doctors. Make sure the doctor talks to your parent. If the doctor insists on talking only to you, it may be time to find a new doctor.

-Communicating with the doctor prior to the visit ensures that questions and issues are addressed. The doctor can bring up those tough issues (like the car keys) and you can chime in only if necessary.

-Keep a list of all of your parents’ doctors, including phone numbers, and share the list with others doctors and pharmacies.

-Keep a list of medications, including vitamins, supplements and over the counter medications your parents take. Share this with every one of your parents’ doctors and pharmacies.

-Share your up-to-date contact information with the doctors.

-Keep copies of all of the legal paperwork (health care proxy, power of attorney, living wills, etc.) and make sure doctors have a copy.

-Consolidate! If you can, use only one pharmacy and one medical group. It improves communication among the doctors and can make scheduling appointments and billing inquiries easier.

-Never assume doctors talk to each other, even if they are in the same group. Ask specialists to update the primary care doctor, get print outs of visit summaries and keep your own records. In your pre-visit note to doctors, give an update on what doctors your parents saw since the list visit and what they said.

-Pick one family member to act as the go-between with your parents’ doctors. It will cut down on confusion and frustration if one person is entrusted with gathering and disseminating information.

-Communication is key. If you find you can’t communicate well with a doctor, consider finding your parents a new doctor. If they cannot or will not communicate with you during routine care, a crisis situation is unlikely to improve communication.

-If you can’t attend appointments, consider hiring a service to do this for you.

And finally, take care of yourself. You may feel guilt about what you can’t do, frustration about what they won’t do, and anger at the unfairness of it all. Caregiver strain and burnout are very real issues. You are not alone! Many organizations have resources available, here are just a few:

Alzheimer’s Association

Office of Women’s Health

Caregiver Action Network

National Alliance for Caregiving 

Did you miss part I of the Talking with Doctors conversation series? Read here: Talking With Doctors (Part I)