Life Care Consulting by Barbara Hance - Financial and Personal Management Service for the Elderly, Frail and the Busy
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Tips for Talking with an Elder’s Physician

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 result?
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.

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