Summary: As a caregiver, you may need to communicate with family members and health-care providers regularly. There are steps you can take to make communication with health-care providers easier.

Before seeing a health-care provider

It helps to prepare for appointments with your loved one’s health-care provider, notes the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA). Have a list of medications, including dosages, to give to the office. Create another list of questions and concerns. Make sure you have insurance information as well.

Talk to your loved one about the appointment. Write down additional concerns and questions that come up during this conversation. Make sure your loved one understands the purpose of the meeting with the health-care provider.

During appointments

You may want to bring along a pen and notebook so you can write down information and instructions. Ask the health-care provider if you can record portions of the appointment to replay later, the FCA advises. A recording can help prevent missing information after the meeting. You can also bring a calendar or planner so you can schedule additional appointments while you are there.

Find out if you need to add any documentation to allow you to receive information about your loved one’s care, the FCA suggests. HIPPA (medical privacy) rules limit what a health-care provider can share with others. You may need to sign a health-care directive to keep in your loved one’s file. This directive will give you access to the medical information you need to make the right decisions for your relative.

It can be challenging to understand all the information you receive during an appointment. To ensure you get the facts you need, the FCA suggests you make sure the health-care provider answers these questions:

  • What is the diagnosis (if one has not yet been made)?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • Are there side effects with the medications?
  • Do medications interact with other prescription drugs?
  • Why are you recommending this test? What will it show?
  • Should we see a specialist?
  • Do we need a follow-up appointment with you or another provider?

Following up with a health-care provider 

Once you are armed with information from the health-care provider, notes the FCA, you can do additional research on your own if you choose. If you turn to the Internet for clarification or further information, stick with reputable sites. Government sites, sites with .org as part of the address, and those for well-known medical centers like Johns-Hopkins and Mayo Clinic are generally good choices.

Don’t be afraid to call the health-care provider’s office if you have more questions to ask. Identify yourself as the caregiver of your loved one. Write down the answers you receive just like you would if you were sitting in the office.

Hospitalization and emergencies

If your loved one is admitted to a hospital, the process can get more confusing. You will likely be working with medical professionals who are not your primary health-care provider. They will need to know your relative’s medical history and possible drug allergies or interactions. Make sure everyone treating your loved one has the same information.

Let the hospital staff know you are the caregiver, the AARP suggests, and that you’d like to get information and updates on your loved one’s care. Contact the primary health-care provider to let them know of the hospitalization if necessary.

When your relative is discharged, the FCA advises you to make sure you have all discharge instructions in writing. You may be coordinating follow-up care, whether at home or in a rehabilitation facility. Schedule any necessary appointments with the primary health-care provider as well.

Forty million Americans are caring for their aging parents, according to the AARP. Rest assured you are not alone. Health-care providers work with caregivers daily to ensure patients receive the attention they need. Your ability to communicate with providers will make a difference in caring for your loved one well.

How’s your loved one’s Medicare coverage? You and your loved one can discuss Medicare plan options in his or her area.

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