When an older person has physical
problems, it may be difficult to determine if the problems are
due to normal aging or not.
What should you as a close relative or friend
do to help? Should you call the doctor or trust your loved one
to call? Should you intervene and risk the fallout that may
If you have an established relationship with the physician,
chances are good that he or she will be sympathetic to your
concerns. Most physicians appreciate the involvement of family
members or trusted professionals who accept responsibility for
the care of elder patients. They recognize that you will assist
them in overseeing whatever medical treatment is required. Be
sure that the physician knows the extent of your involvement.
It is a good idea to make an appointment to
consult with the physician on the care plan (you may be billed
for an office visit, but at least you’ll have his or her
undivided attention). Take a list of questions to the appointment.
Be sure that the physician has “the whole story”
– older people often minimize the situation and tell just
part of the story. If there are several physicians and specialists
involved in the caregiving, be sure that they know of each other
and what medications (prescription, over-the-counter, herbal
remedies, etc.) and treatments are being taken.
Ask as many questions as needed to understand
medical terms. Discuss side effects of medications, surgical
procedures, anesthesia, etc. How does this affect the elder
patient? Is the patient going to be limited in any way, i.e.;
driving, walking alone, bathing, etc.?
Write everything down, including nay special
instructions, and discuss any difficulties that you foresee.
This meeting with the elder’s physician is an opportunity
to clarify issues fore everyone involved.
All medical information that may be needed in
an emergency should be recorded and accessible to healthcare
professionals. We record our clients’ information in three
places: on the refrigerator door (magnet), on the inside of
the door most likely to be used during an emergency, and lastly,
in the individual’s wallet on a laminated card.
This is especially important if an HMO has limitations
on facilities accepted by the plan. Although an HMO may accept
the situation as an “emergency”, the patient may
have to be transported to another hospital or facility when
stabilized. The situation will be less traumatic if the patient
starts out in an accepted facility. That is another reason to
keep information up-to-date.
Other points to remember; don’t “talk
around” elders. They need to be a part of the process
and decision-making if possible. This is also a good time to
discuss advanced medical directives, which must be made part
of the patient’s file.
Keep the doctor informed of changes and concerns,
particularly if there is dissatisfaction with treatment. You
cannot expect anything to change unless you make the doctor
aware of the problems.