As your parents start to age, one of the most important relationships to develop is with their primary care doctor. Older adults can forget details from doctor’s appointments, which means potential risks such as not taking medication or showing up for a lab test. As someone who helps manage another person’s healthcare, it’s crucial that you can successfully communicate and work with their doctors. Use the following steps to establish an effective relationship with your parent’s primary care physician.
Get Your Parent On Board
Getting your parent to agree to you attending their doctor appointments can present a challenge. They might feel they are losing their independence if they allow their children or family to help manage their care. You can help ease their fears in the way you approach the subject.
Dr. Evelyn C. Granieri, Chief of Geriatric Medicine at Columbia University and Vineyard Board Member, says it’s essential that older adults don’t feel threatened by you stepping in to help. Dr. Granieri suggests that you communicate this by saying: “You’re not going to be dependent, we’re not infringing upon your independence. We’re just going to make your life easier.”
Secure the Proper Paperwork
For your parent’s primary care physician to speak to you about their medical care, they need to have the appropriate paperwork in place. The Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients by not sharing medical information with anyone. As a first step, call your parent’s doctor’s office to request the appropriate forms.
You may also want to consider having your parents sign a healthcare power of attorney. This allows you to make medical decisions for them in case they are not able to, due to illness, cognitive loss or physical impairments.
Set Up a Plan for Communication
Once you’ve met the doctor and established that you’ll be attending appointments, find out their preferred method of communication outside of the office. Ask if you can email or call with questions/concerns before appointments so that the doctor has time to prepare. Many health insurance plans also offer a communication portal so that you can directly message doctors. The goal is to make sure you’re on the same page as far as communication.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Remember that the purpose of accompanying your parent to their appointments is so you can help manage their care. It’s vital that you feel comfortable asking their doctor questions. Consider bringing a notebook, or typing out notes on your smartphone so that you can remember the doctor’s responses and advice. No question is silly, and you have the right to ask as many as you’d like to make sure you and your parent understand all factors relating to their healthcare.
Ensure There’s Collaboration Between Doctors
Depending on the level of care and attention needed, your parent’s medical team might include several doctors or therapists. Confirm with any medical professional that they share notes and findings with each other to ensure a cohesive plan for healthcare.
When necessary, act as the clearinghouse for information between different doctors or specialists. Most importantly, make sure your parent’s primary care physician knows every update. Don’t worry about appearing annoying; it never hurts to confirm there’s collaboration and knowledge sharing when it comes to healthcare.
Successfully Help Manage Your Parent’s Care
Helping to manage medical care for a parent can be a daunting task. These tips, coupled with maintaining a sound calendar system, should help make the job more manageable. Make sure that you’re comfortable with your parent’s primary care physician and you have a productive relationship, as they are the main point of contact for their healthcare.