Communicating with Family Members: Making Your Senior’s Medical Staff Part of Your Team

i-aging You’ve done all the right things to keep your loved one in their home during their golden years. You’ve hired a skilled and capable home health aide, know the contact information of all your loved ones healthcare professionals, and check in with everyone regularly. But sometimes it’s hard to relay important information about your loved one to other family members. What if a doctor won’t return their calls? What if a relative balks at the plan for treatment because they disagree with it? How do you make communicating with family members and your loved one’s medical team easier? In this post, we’ll explore some important tips for smooth and productive interactions.

Solutions to common problems when communicating with family members

When dealing with multiple family members and healthcare workers for an elderly patient, similar problems tend to arise over time. Here are some of the most common ones, as well as tips for fixing them:

Problem: Your senior’s doctor is hard to reach, doesn’t return calls, or doesn’t allow enough time for each call.

Solution: Begin by asking the receptionist or nurse manager at the doctor’s office the best time to get in touch with the doctor. Many physicians return calls at the end of the day or into the evening. Ask if there is a better number to reach him or her during this time. Ask what day of the week or time of day the doctor typically sees the fewest patients. This may be a good time to get him or her on the phone.

When you do speak to the doctor, be sure to have all your questions and concerns prepared, and include any important details like names of prescriptions, dosages, and other details. Often, the doctor does not have this information right in front of them, and any time you can save them from having to go look for it means more time for your call. If none of these suggestions work, explain to the doctor your concerns about communicating with them. Ask if there’s anything you can do to make it easier. As a last resort, consider choosing a different doctor for you elder – one with a better track record of client communication.

Problem: Relatives disagree with decisions regarding elder’s current or proposed treatment.

Solution: Make an individualized care plan for your elder at the start, and have everyone participate. If one relative still insists on having their way, gently explain that most care plans are reviewed quarterly, which is every three months. At that time, they are welcome to bring up their suggestions again. You can also mention that, for right now, almost everyone else agrees – including healthcare professionals like the patient’s doctor – that the present course of action is the best one.

Problem: Family members have no way of keeping up with senior’s multiple healthcare professionals. It is difficult to determine the status of various appointments or events, including those involving doctors, physical or occupational therapists, visiting nurses, social workers, and home health aides, among others.

Solution: Create a central log book. Ideally, this would be located at the patient’s home in an easily-accessible location, such as a coffee or side table, or desk. Each person who visits the senior should write down key information such as their name, function, the date and time, results of appointment, and any changes they noticed with the senior or the home since their last visit.

Communication with family and health worker shouldn’t fill you with dread

Trying to get everyone on the same page regarding an elderly loved one’s living situation and care can sometimes seem like pulling teeth. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By following the tips above, you’ll find that arguments and confusion will likely decrease, leading to better care for your senior. When in doubt, help everyone refocus on what’s really important: making life easier and more comfortable for your loved one. When everyone has their eye on the same prize, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish!

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 senior care. Contact us to find out more.


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