Adult children and other family caregivers often ask for advice on how to build a strong relationship with a senior loved one’s physicians. They understand how important these relationships are to their family member’s well-being and hope to create trusting partnerships with each of them.
Because physicians’ schedules are so busy, however, families aren’t sure what steps they can take to quickly develop that bond.
In honor of National Doctor’s Day on March 30, we are sharing a few ideas we think you will find useful.
5 Tips for Working with a Senior Loved One’s Physician
1. Daily symptom journal: Communication with a busy physician goes more smoothly if you are organized and have specific concerns you can share. One way to do that is to document any changes in a daily journal or on a calendar. It also helps the physician if you record sleep challenges, activity levels, and what the senior eats and drinks. This is especially important on days when the senior struggles, because it gives the doctor a fuller picture of what might be going on.
A day or two before your appointment with the physician, go through the calendar and summarize what you’ve noticed. While you should still plan to take the whole calendar with you, the summary will let you quickly relay information to the doctor.
2. Prepare questions ahead: When a doctor appears to be rushed, a senior and their family caregiver may be hesitant to ask questions. While physicians do have busy days, most want you to share your questions and concerns. It’s one of the best ways to help them identify and address small problems before they become big ones.
Keep a running list of questions that you add to between appointments. The day before your appointment, take time to review and organize the list.
3. Be respectful: Changes in a senior’s health can make emotions run high. Families sometimes receive news they don’t want to hear or even news they don’t agree with. While it’s okay to disagree and even to seek a second opinion, it’s important to be respectful, too.
4. Follow doctor’s orders: Research shows that as many as 50 percent of all patients fail to follow their doctor’s orders. Those who live with chronic health conditions—high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, for example—are among the least compliant. This can lead to repeated trips to the physician’s office and even to the emergency room.
Sometimes, seniors aren’t compliant because they don’t understand the instructions but won’t admit it. Others struggle with side effects of medication or confusion about dosage.
Whatever the reason, failing to follow a doctor’s orders can be a barrier to developing the strong relationship you need. If your loved one is not complying with their physician’s orders, find out why. Then, work with the doctor to create a plan for getting the senior on track.
5. Create a medical file: Another important factor in working with your senior loved one’s physician is to create a complete medical file. Keep copies of all test results, a list of medications and prescribing physicians, any known allergies, and a list of contact information for all of their physicians. Have extra copies available that can be shared with the physician. This makes it easier to coordinate care between several different physicians, especially those who are part of different healthcare systems.
More Resources for Family Caregivers
We know how important education is to family caregivers. It’s why we routinely share information and resources on The Sunrise Blog. From fire prevention tips for seniors to emergency weather preparedness, check our blog regularly for the latest news on aging, wellness, caregiving, and more.