Chapter 4: Talking to others
Conversations with professionals
Her doctor asked me, “What’s keeping her here?” I thought, “Wait until it’s your turn. We’re hardwired to stay alive.”
Getting good healthcare depends upon good communication with the entire healthcare team, especially when we have health problems that affect the way we live. It is important to be able to openly discuss any concerns. As a caregiver, you can help the person who is ill prepare for the appointment and accompany them so you can listen and take notes. You can also assist by asking questions on their behalf, but be sure you have their permission first. The person who is ill may want to be the one who asks the questions, but be prepared to either nudge them or ask on their behalf.
Time is limited in appointments, so it is important to be organized going in. A basic plan can help you make the most of your appointment whether you are starting with a new doctor or continuing with the doctor you’ve seen for years. The following suggestions will make it easier for the person who is ill and you to cover everything you need to talk about. Click on each phrase below to read more.
Make a list of the health- or care-related concerns you want to discuss, and prioritize them. For example, do you have a new symptom you want to ask the doctor about? Do you want to get a flu shot? Are you concerned about how a treatment is affecting your daily life?
If you have more than a few items to discuss, put them in order and ask about the most important ones first. Don’t put off the things that are really on your mind until the end of your appointment – bring them up right away!
Some doctors suggest you put all your prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal remedies or supplements in a bag and bring them with you. Others recommend you bring a list of everything you take.
You should also take your insurance cards; names, and phone numbers of other doctors you see; and your medical records if the doctor doesn’t already have them.
Make sure the person who is ill can see and hear as well as possible. Many older people use glasses or need aids for hearing. Make sure the person takes their eyeglasses to the doctor visit. If they have a hearing aid, make sure that it is working well and that they wear it. Have them let the doctor and staff know if they have a hard time seeing or hearing. For example, they may want to say, “My hearing makes it hard to understand everything you’re saying. It helps a lot when you speak slowly.”
It is important to be able to ask questions of the physician and entire healthcare team so the person who is ill can understand what is going on. This also helps the professionals understand the person’s health issues, values, and wishes.
Additional thoughts about communicating with professionals
Be open with your healthcare team. Make sure they have the information they need to treat you appropriately.
If you are talking about end-of-life concerns, it can be difficult for everyone, but understand that these conversations are about being informed and involved in your own care.
Remember that the person who is ill, you as the caregiver, and your healthcare team are all partners in care.