If you help care for an older adult, you know that a great deal of your time is spent going to and from medical appointments. It can be challenging to keep track of the different times, treatments, medications, and recommendations. You want your loved one to get the very best in healthcare, but how do you manage their senior doctor visits to make this happen? Read on to find out.
Become a medical proxy
Although not strictly necessary, becoming a medical proxy for your loved one may make it a lot easier to organize their medical issues and advocate when necessary. Tha proxy gives you the power to act directly on your family member’s behalf if they are unable to speak for themselves, or lose decision-making capacity.
With your loved one’s permission, you can execute a medical proxy and list your name on the consent forms they sign with doctors and hospitals. These permissions allow health professionals to discuss the patient’s condition with you. Make sure your loved one’s doctor has copies of all relevant legal documents, such as a signed health care proxy or durable medical power of attorney.
Pick a point person
Another important to-do when it comes to managing your loved one’s medical care is to pick a point person who will handle most healthcare tasks. Choosing a single person as the coordinator can help things run more smoothly. It will be the point person’s job to disseminate any necessary information and instructions to other family members or caregivers.
Go with your loved one to the doctor
We realize that family members and caregivers often have hectic schedules, so sitting through medical appointments may be difficult to fit into your busy day. Although it’s tempting just to drop your loved one off at the doctor and pick them up when they’re through, this can often backfire. You can miss out on critical information.
Sitting in on an appointment can make a huge difference in giving your loved one the emotional support they need during this difficult time. Moreover, it also gives you the opportunity to ask direct questions and advocate for your loved one with the doctor, rather than playing “phone tag” to resolve any issues after the fact.
Don’t be afraid to get help
If all this feels a bit overwhelming, don’t panic! There is a solution that doesn’t involve taking on more responsibility than you can comfortably manage. For instance, instead of choosing a family member to be the point person, consider a geriatric care manager – a licensed expert with vast experience working with older adults. Many have advanced degrees in nursing or social work. If you have a medical proxy for your loved one, you can even designate the professional care manager to discuss the patient’s healthcare with their doctors.
Likewise, a certified home health aide can provide safe, secure, escorted transportation for your loved one that can be with them on doctor visits when you can’t. With the patient’s permission (or yours, depending on who can legally speak for them), the aide can take notes, ask questions, and go for follow-up visits. They can also provide the emotional support that your loved one may need at these appointments when you’re unable to be there. This arrangement works best with a home health aide the patient has known for a while and with whom they feel comfortable.
With a little planning, you can help senior doctor visits go smoothly
As you can see, managing an aging loved one’s doctor appointments is key to maximizing their health and well-being. Effective communication, follow-up, and a little outside help can make it easier to get the most out of doctor-patient relationships. By putting these tips into action, you can help not only your loved one feel better, but you can help yourself avoid a great deal of stress as well!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.