Caregiving 101: Tips for New Caregivers

The Doctor Is In: Navigating Medical Appointments with Elderly Parents

The Doctor Is In: Navigating Medical Appointments with Elderly Parents

The Doctor Is In: Navigating Medical Appointments with Elderly Parents

Working with your parents' doctors is an important part of caregiving. At some point you're going to want to become more involved by going with your parents to their appointments. All too often, elderly patients are too shy to ask questions or ask the doctor to repeat things if they didn't hear them. Likewise, they could forget important details such as medication instructions or lifestyle changes the doctor recommends. It's not overstepping to be involved. Wondering how to move forward? We've got four tips to get you started on navigating medical appointments with your elderly parents.

Get Your Paperwork Together

If you're going to take an active role in your parents' healthcare, it's helpful to get a few documents to prevent problems later. For starters, have your parents sign HIPAA forms with each doctor. Without it, the doctors, nurses, and other members of the medical team won't be able to discuss any details about your mom's health or your dad's appointments. It's a good idea to have this on file even if you don't go to every appointment. This form is useful so you're able to get the information you need in case of an emergency. Another helpful document is a "healthcare power of attorney." It allows your parents to put one or more people in charge of their healthcare decisions if they're not able to do it for themselves. Healthcare POAs may also spell out your parents' wishes.

Tips for Preparing for Appointments

Communication is a big part of caregiving. Sitting down and talking with your parents is important. Ask them questions to figure out how they're feeling, what problems they might be experiencing, and any questions or concerns they have about their health. At the same time, you should observe your parents' condition and appearance to figure out if anything has changed that you need to talk about to their doctor. For example, if one has a worsening cough, is struggling with remembering things, or if you've noticed mood changes, these are all issues that could be an indicator something else is wrong. Work with your parents to make a list of questions for their appointments. Also, make sure you have a current list of your parents' prescription medications, over-the-counter meds, and supplements to take to each appointment.

Sitting In: Tips for Getting the Most Out of Appointments

If you can, go with your parents to their appointments. It's a great way to open the channels of communication and build rapport with their doctors. Also, you're your parents' biggest advocate. Don't be afraid to ask questions and get as much information from doctors and other medical professionals as possible. That's key for you and your parents to be able to understand what's going on with their health, what to expect, and what options are available to help them live their healthiest, happiest lives.  If you're unable to attend visits, arrange for access to electronic records and patient portals so you can get important information. Talk to your parents' doctors to figure out the best way to stay in the loop on everything that's going on.

What to Do If Your Parent Refuses to Go to Appointments

There may come a time when your elderly parent refuses to go to an appointment. There are lots of reasons this could happen, particularly if he or she is afraid of what might be found or if he or she has dementia or another condition that affects cognitive abilities. If you're struggling with this problem, start by asking your parent to see the doctor with you because you're worried. Sometimes that's all it takes to get someone over the hump. If still reluctant, try framing the appointment around a pleasurable activity like going shopping or having lunch together.  Ultimately, successfully navigating medical appointments depends on having open communication with your parents so they feel they're not being cut out of the conversation. Always include them in their care and discussions with their health care professionals. Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic be sure to check each doctor's policy about who can accompany patients to their appointments and what precautions you need to take.

Kimberly-Clark Canada makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.