Play an Active Role In Your Parent’s Healthcare

It’s happened to all of us. You’re at your doctor’s appointment, and you walk out with questions you meant to ask, wondering whether you needed a follow up visit, or what was called the pharmacy. I’ve had many occasions when having someone with me would’ve saved me forgetting important information.  If you’re a child of an aging parent, keeping track of appointments, and attending office visits has probably become commonplace, and finding ways to help mom or dad be more actively involved in their healthcare can really open up the lines of communication between patient, and provider. 

The National Patient Safety Foundation developed the Ask Me 3 program designed to help patients be more proactive in their healthcare.  The foundation devised three important questions a patient should ask their provider: 

What is my main problem?

What do I need to do?

Why is it important for me to this?

Sit down with your parent prior to their appointment, to make a list of these and other  questions, asking them what they feel the doctor should know. Sometimes subtle symptoms can be signs of a more serious problem, and we often forget to mention these things during the visit.  Doctor’s rely on patients to be good historians in order to make an accurate diagnosis, and jotting questions down on paper helps them make a more thorough assessment. 

Many providers will do a phone consult with the caregiver in lieu of making an appointment. These consultations are generally not covered by insurance, but can help answer additional questions, or go over test results.  Make sure to let the office know who they can contact  with protected health information about your parent, and whether it’s ok to leave a detailed message to ensure confidentiality. 

Your senior parent wants to retain their dignity, and may become upset when you interpret everything for them. It can be helpful to allow them to voice their concerns, and opinions while you listen, and should there be pertinent information the doctor should know, ask about arranging for a phone call or email correspondence. Maybe have mom or dad tag along the next time you have an appointment of your own to let them know you too need some moral support.