If you’re a caregiver responsible for someone else’s care, it’s imperative that you attend their doctors appointments with them so that you can be clear on diagnosis and treatment plans.
However, in the moment, it’s easy to forget to ask certain questions. Here are some examples of questions you should ask your loved one’s doctor to make sure you understand how you can best help.
1. How can I help?
It seems simple, but don’t be afraid to ask your doctor how you can help your loved one. This question presents an opportunity for the doctor to go over the treatment plan with you and help you figure out where you can step in. Does your loved one need help administering medication? Will they need transportation to medical appointments? Should you be assisting with cooking, cleaning, or even bathing? Find out when it’s time for you to lend a helping hand, and when you can step away.
2. What do I need to learn?
Some patients may need unique medical care, like blood transfusions or physical therapy. Be sure to ask your doctor if there are any skills you need to learn, such as how to complete a transfusion or what exercises you can help your loved one with. You may also want to ask if there are any skills you shouldn’t help with. The doctor may recommend that you avoid helping with certain exercises to prevent accidents!
3. What do I need to know about the diagnosis and treatment plan?
If you aren’t in the room when your loved one is officially diagnosed, be sure to ask your doctor to go over the diagnosis and treatment plan again. If the person you’re caring for is older or forgetful, you don’t want to risk missing out on important information when they fill you in later. You may need to get written permission to discuss your loved one’s medical records with your doctor, so be sure to talk to the doctor’s staff about any necessary paperwork.
4. Is there a new prescription I should know about?
Elderly or forgetful patients may neglect to tell you that their dosage changed or that their new medication will have a negative reaction with their favorite painkiller. Be sure to ask your doctor if your loved one has gotten a new prescription or if they’ve been instructed to stop taking another. Find out what pharmacy you need to go to and if there is a mail-order option.
Ask if the new prescription has any known interactions you should worry about. Also, ask about prescription instructions, just in case. Make sure that you know just as well as your loved one does exactly when and how to take their medication. Should it be taken with food? Should it be taken once per day or twice? Will it make them nauseous or drowsy?
5. What major changes do we have to make around the house?
If you live with the person you’re caring for, there may be some changes that will affect you, too. For example, if you are speaking to your spouse’s doctor, and you normally cook a meal for two, are there dietary changes you have to make? Will you have to start making separate meals to make sure your loved one is getting the necessary nutrients? Maybe there are physical changes you have to make as well, such as installing a grab bar or stool in your shower or removing tripping hazards.
6. How can we coordinate with specialists?
There’s a good chance that the primary physician is not the only doctor you need to speak with about your loved one’s diagnosis. Ask your doctor if you need to get in touch with any specialists, such as a cardiologist or nutritionist. Then, ask if the doctor has a process in place for coordinating care. For example, will the doctor send relevant medical records to the specialist, or do you have to bring those with you?
7. What do we do when I can’t be there?
There will be times when you simply can’t be there to assist your loved one. Maybe you’ll have a doctor’s appointment of your own to get to, or maybe you have to work all day. Ask your doctor about what your options are when you can’t be there.
Some people take advantage of “respite care,” meaning letting your loved one stay in a medical facility for some time so that you can rest or tend to your own affairs. You also may want to hire some short-term help, like an in-home nurse or a weekly homemaker, so that you don’t have to handle everything yourself. Check with your local senior centers and your local Area Agency on Aging to find out if there are free or low-cost services in your area for people in need.
8. Is this information I found accurate?
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about information you found online. There are tons of medical advice websites out there, and not all of them are accurate. However, know who to trust. If you read in a social media comment that a certain drug is a bad idea, but the doctor strongly recommends it, who should you trust? It may be worth getting a second opinion from another doctor or pharmacist, but it’s usually best to trust someone with a medical degree.
9. When should we be concerned, and when should we come back?
Make sure you walk away knowing what symptoms to look for and when it’s important to see a doctor. Ask if there are certain symptoms that can be treated with an over-the-counter medication and if there are others that require a prescription. Finally, have a clear understanding of what doctors your loved one needs to see and when. If necessary, schedule follow-up appointments while you’re there so that no one forgets.
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