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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

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Talking with health care providers when you don't think you're getting the whole story

George’s mother Delia is 76, and has diabetes and heart disease. George drives Delia to her doctor’s appointments and then sits in the waiting room. When she comes out, he asks how it went and she replies breezily, “Fine, you know me, tough as an ox!” But when he asks about the doctor’s specific recommendations, Delia often can’t remember exactly what she said.
 

George is beginning to think he should be in on the consultation, but he also wants to respect his mother’s autonomy. It’s a common issue. Caregivers have an important role to play in communicating with doctors, nurses and other health care providers. But it’s a delicate balance, one that must respect the dignity and legal rights of the person you’re caring for while ensuring they get the best possible care. The U.S.-based website nextstepincare.org is dedicated to helping caregivers and providers communicate better. Here are some insights from the site:

  • Always be sure the provider knows you are the primary caregiver.
  • Before the appointment, talk to the person you’re caring for about what you want to accomplish. Write down the questions and take them with you.
  • Ask her or him what role you should play during the visit. Does he or she want you to ask the questions, or to just listen and take notes?
  • Figure out how to talk with the provider about sensitive issues. For example, you may want to schedule a phone call with the family doctor after the in-person appointment.
  • During the visit, speak up when you feel you need to.
  • Be sure you understand information or instructions. (“So what you’re saying is . . .)
  • Take notes.
  • Make sure you know how to do new tasks you are asked to do.
  • Stay calm and be patient. Remember the provider and you are on the same team!

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