As a caregiver, one of your most important tasks — and possibly your most stressful task — is to assist or oversee your loved one’s medical well being. To tackle this challenge, you need to be prepared to effectively communicate with doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. We’ve put together a list of documents you will need and things to keep in mind to help you master communication.
All parties will be more comfortable if there is a positive relationship between the medical professionals, patient, and caregiver. Attend all appointments and make sure doctors and nurses understand your role.
Depending on your loved one’s medical conditions, he or she may need several doctors. It’s important for you to understand what each doctor does and which doctor to call if a situation arises. Also, it is crucial for all doctors involved to know how your loved one is being treated by his or her other doctors. Be sure to bring recent lab reports and a list of current medications to all appointments.
Part of advocating for your loved one is knowing what he or she wants from the start, which is why a living will is pertinent. Also referred to as an advance healthcare directive, a living will is a legal document that allows a person to specify his or her health-related wishes if he or she becomes unable to communicate or make decisions due to poor or failing health. For caregivers, living wills eliminate guess work. You will feel more comfortable communicating with medical staff and advocating for a parent or loved one if you already know what he or she wants.
In case of an emergency or sudden change in health, it is important for all adults to have a living will. If you or a loved one do not have an advance healthcare directive, talk to your lawyer right away.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects a patient’s privacy. Unless a patient over 18 is incapacitated, a doctor can only legally communicate medical information and treatment options with the patient. Thus, not having an established HIPAA agreement may prevent a caregiver from being part of the discussion, meaning the caregiver will lack the information needed to make decisions. To obtain a HIPAA agreement, you will need to file to become your loved one’s personal representative. Contact your lawyer for more information.
Fortunate caregivers have friends and family who are just as involved, or at least volunteer regularly, to take care of the loved one needing assistance. Having several people willing to help is great; however, too many people can make communicating with medical professionals confusing for everyone involved. Designate one person to be responsible for communicating with doctors and relaying the information to the rest of the family. This will keep everyone on the same page.
Medical professionals are not mind readers. Doctors and nurses will give you the information that they have; however, they may throw some medical jargon in their explanation without realizing that you don’t understand. If you’re confused, admit that you are and ask specific questions. As a caregiver with decision-making authority, it’s important for you to understand.
Chances are, your loved one’s doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals chose their profession because they wanted to help others. If you forget that, it may be easy to get frustrated with these people. As a caregiver, there will be times that you know best. However, if you aren’t a medical professional, you need to remember that you aren’t an expert and that you don’t know everything. Instead, be appreciative and remember thank yous go a long way.
If you’re caring for your parent, remember that he or she took care of you first. Your mom or dad probably took you to countless doctor’s appointments and was sure to tell your doctor about your runny nose or itchy throat when you weren’t old enough to communicate these things. Now, it is your turn to return the favor by effectively communicating with your loved one’s doctors and nurses.
For more information about how you can continue caring for an elderly family member, contact Angel’s Senior Home Solutions for the assistance and support you need.