7 Steps for Helping Senior Parents with Doctor Visits
Helping aging parents with the coordination or management of medical care can often feel overwhelming for adult children. If you’ve watched a senior parent struggle with remembering information a doctor provided or have a hard time keeping track of multiple medications, you’ve likely realized you need to step in to offer some support. Yet knowing where to start with that effort can be difficult.
Start a Conversation About How You Can Help
Begin by talking to your parent or parents about the ways you may be able to help them, such as accompanying them on medical visits to help take notes about directions, tests, or medications. Reassure them you want to make visits easier, not completely take over. They should still be the lead person when talking with the doctor at appointments. You may also be able to help with a follow-up phone call to the physician’s office if questions or new symptoms arise between visits.
To learn more about the signs that it may be time to start helping a parent, read this blog: Helping an Aging Parent with Healthcare.
Take Steps to Make Communication Easy
Once you’ve had an initial conversation with your parent or parents about ways you can help, there are several actions you and your parent will need to take to enable you to communicate well with his or her medical team.
We’ve put together a list of seven vital steps adult children need to take in order to be an effective health care advocate for a senior parent.
1. Together, make a list of all of their doctors and contact information for each office.
Most seniors have more than one doctor. In addition to a primary care provider, make sure you know about any specialists your parent sees on a regular basis. This could include a cardiologist, orthopedist, eye doctor, or other specialists. Having a list of doctors with a phone number and address for each office creates an easy reference when it’s time to make an appointment or complete any paperwork that asks about medical care.
2. Make a list of all medications and dosages and be sure your parent takes it to visits.
If your parent takes multiple medications, it’s wise for both you and your parent to understand who prescribed each medication, why it was prescribed, and how to take the medicine.
Having a current list of medications and dosages serves several purposes:
- Most physician offices review a list of medications with patients at the start of a visit. Rather than relying on your parent’s memory or your own recollection, you can be positive all medications will be listed or that old prescriptions they may no longer take can be removed from the list.
- A complete medication list helps doctors avoid prescribing a new medication that may have an adverse interaction with an existing medication.
- A list also creates an easy reference in the case of an emergency or visit to the ER.
- Be sure to keep a copy of the medication list for yourself and update both your list and your parent’s list any time there is a change in medication dosage or a new medicine is added.
3. Ask your parents to sign HIPAA forms.
Physicians, nurses, and receptionists cannot talk to adult children about a parent’s health or appointments unless the parent has signed a HIPAA form giving the office permission to share medical information with any adult children the parent lists. Ask your parents to sign a HIPAA form at each of their physician offices. Explain that in the case of questions or an emergency, having this form on file will allow you to consult with the doctor’s office.
4. Consider Health Care Power of Attorney
Your parents may also want to consider creating a health care power of attorney document if they do not already have one. This legal document, which must be notarized, allows your parents to designate one or more people to make health care decisions on their behalf if they become unable to make decisions for themselves.
5. Arrange for access to electronic medical records or patient portals.
Your parents can give you permission to access their electronic medical records and communicate with their health care team through any existing patient portals. This can be a huge time-saver for adult children, allowing them to log in online to send a non-urgent message or follow-up question to a care provider, check lab results, see after-visit summaries, or view upcoming scheduled appointments.
As a part of the Cone Health network, all LeBauer physicians and providers utilize MyChart, which includes all of the features mentioned above. MyChart also allows any doctors your parents see in the Cone Health system, on either an outpatient basis or in a Cone Health hospital, to view medications, tests, and visit history of other Cone Health doctors. This can help prevent duplication of lab work or other tests, prevent any medication interactions, and help ensure the most effective care and treatment.
You can find instructions about steps your parents need to take to allow you to access their MyChart accounts from the MyChart login page.
6. Help your parent make a list of his or her questions or concerns before visits.
Several days before a visit, start talking with your parent about how he or she has been feeling and any new or old symptoms that are bothering them. You can help them make a list of questions and concerns that they can take to the visit.
7. Attend doctor’s visits if possible.
Even if you can’t attend all doctor’s visits, try to accompany your parent to at least one visit with each doctor. Making a personal connection with the doctor can be extremely beneficial to creating stronger communication later.
Ask the doctor how she or he prefers to communicate with you or your parent — through messages in an online portal, by phone, or by email. Doctors generally welcome family member involvement because they know that can lead to more effective care.
If you can’t go to a visit, you can usually message or call the doctor or a nurse before the appointment to mention concerns you would like them to address. You can also contact the provider afterward to be sure you understand any diagnosis or care recommendations.
LeBauer Primary Care for Seniors Includes No-Cost Annual Medicare Visit
If you’re helping your senior parent look for a new doctor, the LeBauer team has internal medicine and family physicians who have experience caring for seniors. Each LeBauer primary care office also has nurses who are specially trained to complete annual wellness visits and health plans that are available for every Medicare patient at no cost. Learn more about the benefits of annual wellness visits.
Find a Location Near You
LeBauer has primary care offices at nine convenient locations throughout the Triad. You or your parent can request an appointment through either an online appointment form or by calling the phone number of the office location you wish to visit.
If your parent is already a LeBauer patient and you would like to communicate with his or her doctor, talk to your parent about these seven steps, particularly signing HIPAA forms and exploring your access to the MyChart patient portal.
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