Helping aging parents with the coordination or management of medical care can often feel overwhelming for adult children. You’ve likely realized a point when you need to step in to offer some support, but knowing where to start with that effort can be difficult.
Start a Conversation.
Begin by talking to your parents about the ways you can 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 to the doctor at appointments.
Take Steps to Make Communication Easy.
Once you’ve had that initial conversation with your parent, there are several actions you and your parent can take for easy communication with their medical team.
Make a List of Information.
Having a list of doctors, including any specialists, with a phone number and address for each office creates an easy reference for appointments and completing paperwork. If your parent takes multiple medications, it’s wise for both you and your parent to understand who prescribed each medication and why it was prescribed. Be sure to keep a copy of the medication list for yourself. Update that list any time there is a change in dose or a new medicine is added.
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. Ask your parents to sign a HIPAA form at each physician’s office, giving the office permission to share medical information with any adult children on the parent’s list.
Consider Health Care Power of Attorney.
This legal document allows your parents to designate one or more people to make health care decisions if they become unable to make it themselves.
Arrange Access to Electronic Medical Records.
Your parents can give you permission to access their electronic medical records and communicate with their health care team through existing patient portals. This can be a huge time-saver for adult children, allowing them to log in to send a non-urgent message or follow-up question to a care provider. They can even check lab results, see after-visit summaries, or view upcoming scheduled appointments.
Make a List of Questions and Concerns.
Several days before a doctor 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.
Attend Doctor’s Visits if Possible.
Making a personal connection with the doctor can be extremely beneficial to creating strong communication later. Try to accompany your parent to one visit with each doctor. 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.
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