How to Talk to Your Parents’ Doctor
Watching your parents age is never easy, especially as their health declines. Perhaps you want to discuss your concerns with a professional, but don’t know how to talk to your parents’ doctor.
Navigating this situation is tricky at times, but you aren’t alone. Many caregivers and adult children find themselves in this situation.
Some seniors might welcome the opportunity for their children and caregivers to join them at appointments. On the other hand, others are less enthusiastic about the possibility.
They might insist that their health is fine, “forget” symptoms, skip their medication, or do something else that indicates they are not okay.
So what’s a family caregiver to do? There are no set rules, but this guide can help. Here are some tips on how to talk to your parents’ doctor.
Be Their Advocate
One of the best ways to make your parents feel at ease about your involvement in their health is recognizing and understanding their point of view.
It shows your aging parent that you aren’t trying to control them and that they are still in control of their decisions.
Let them know that their independence is a priority, and you want to make sure nothing will jeopardize that. Remind your parents that you want to ensure they are receiving the best possible care.
Make sure that your parent knows that the final decision is up to them, but that you want to help them.
You know their medical history and needs best, so your role in caring for your parents can’t be understated.
As a family caregiver, you are in a unique position where you can see the broader scope of your parent’s health.
This position puts you in a better place to be your parent’s advocate and close any gaps in understanding between your parent and their doctor.
Talking to your parent’s doctor can be intimidating, but you have more to lose by not standing up for your parents when times call for it.
How to Become an Advocate
You have the chance to make a difference in your parent’s care. You might want to be the voice for your parents, but you may not know how to become an advocate for them.
Throughout your involvement in your parent’s care, you must get help from a compassionate health care team.
You want medical professionals who see your parents as more than a series of diagnoses and directives.
Having a pleasant bedside manner is a plus, but working with people who genuinely care about your parent’s well-being will make discussing treatment options easier.
Additionally, take time to organize your parent’s medical records. Keeping paperwork, insurance files, and other documents in one place will help you as you prepare to talk to their doctor.
If you are able, record your daily observations you make about your parents. Before and during appointments, you can review your notes and provide the doctor with the most accurate information possible.
Don’t be intimidated by your parent’s doctor. If you have any questions, ask them! Similarly, if you have an opinion about your parent’s care, don’t be afraid to express that.
Things to Discuss with the Doctor
The first step you should take when learning how to talk to your parents’ doctor is asking your parents to sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form. These are available at doctors’ offices and hospitals.
This form allows doctors and other health care professionals to discuss your parents’ medical information with you.
Although your parent might give your doctor spoken approval, a HIPAA form guarantees that you’ll get more information.
Secondly, make sure that your parent has declared you or someone else a health care power of attorney.
This step is a precautionary measure in case they become physically or mentally unable to make decisions for themself. It is also vital for any directives concerning end of life care.
If your parent is indecisive about your involvement, give them confidence by telling them why they must have a health care power of attorney.
Gently remind them that keeping you informed about their health and their choices is beneficial because you are more aware of their preferences.
However, some aging parents might refuse to fill out the HIPAA form or give their doctor permission to talk to you.
In this case, e-mail or call the doctor to voice your concerns. Many doctors may prefer e-mails, as they provide a paper trail and also remind the doctor to bring up any issues during your parents’ appointment.
But without the appropriate authorization, the doctor won’t be able to share any information regarding your parents’ care with you.
Connect to Your Parents
If you feel that your involvement in your parents’ health is paramount, reinforce your desire for their safety, independence, and privacy.
Tell them that your involvement comes from a place of love and concern, and you want them to have the best possible quality of life.
If you have siblings, choose one to be the designated spokesperson. This person will be responsible for any contact with your parents’ healthcare professionals. Afterward, they can speak to the other siblings to keep them in the loop.
You could wait to discuss this issue with your parents until you are with them at the doctor’s office. Or, consider e-mailing their physician ahead of time.
Together, decide which questions to ask, as well as who does the asking.
Most importantly, let your parents take the lead.
After the appointment, the two of you can go over everything and discuss how it went and what was shared.
Whether your aging parent wants you to be involved in their care or not, they must understand that you are listening to them and actively connecting with their feelings.
How to Talk to Your Parents’ Doctor
For those whose aging parents are comfortable with you joining them at appointments, the second hurdle is knowing how to talk to your parents’ doctor.
Before the Appointment
As stated above, select one sibling or another family member to be the primary contact with your parents’ doctors.
Make sure that the same person goes to appointments to provide greater consistency. It will also help clarify when passing along the information to other family members.
Before the appointment, come up with a list of questions or concerns, then e-mail or fax them to the doctor ahead of time.
Alerting the doctor to the most pressing concerns you want to discuss at the appointment ahead of time is a great tactic, especially if the issue is a sensitive one for your parent.
Your parents might be more receptive to discussing something touchy, such as giving up driving, if their doctor brings it up first.
Additionally, your parents might be more inclined to listen to the doctor’s opinion and advice than they are to yours.
Do what you can to select doctors who are related to the same hospital or practice because it’s easier to share records, lab results, and information from specialists.
During the Appointment
While you are in the appointment, remember to let your parents speak freely and ask questions. Ask about any side-effects or safety concerns for generic medications or taking multiple prescriptions.
Ask follow-up questions, and don’t be afraid to ask the doctor to clarify terms or ideas you or your parents find confusing.
When your parent has tests, ask for the results, as some doctors only share results if something is irregular.
Inquire if the doctor is sharing information with other members of your parents’ health care team because they might not.
Have any contact information of other health care professionals involved in your parent’s care ready to pass along to the doctor.
Lastly, take notes so that when relaying information to other family members, you don’t forget or misconstrue any details.
After the Appointment
When the appointment ends, go over what was discussed and ask what their sentiments might be, especially regarding their doctor.
Do they like or dislike the doctor? Do they appear resistant to medical advice? If so, you may need to consider looking for a second opinion.
How to Talk to Your Parents Doctor When You Live Apart
If your parent lives in a different city or state, you can still see that they get the right care.
Several health care professionals can prioritize your parents’ well-being while navigating the health care system:
- Ambulatory escorts
- Geriatric care managers
- Home health aides
- Paid caregivers
Long-distance caregiving compounds the challenges that family caregivers face. But knowing that your parent has someone local will give you peace of mind.
MeetCaregivers can match your parents with the perfect in-home care worker. An in-home caregiver can assist with many senior care needs.
Call us at (888) 541-1136. For general inquiries, or to ask about health care coverage, message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, be sure to check the blog for resources and tips for happy, healthy senior living.