Tips for Communicating with a Senior’s Doctor

Tips on talking to your senior loved one's doctor 08/11/2014

Adult children often ask our caregiving teams for advice on how to best communicate with their senior loved one’s physicians. They understand the importance of a good physician relationship. However, with most primary care physicians’ time stretched so thinly, families aren’t sure how to develop that relationship.

Adult children are especially concerned about how to coordinate care when multiple physician specialists are involved in their senior loved one’s care.  Here are a few suggestions we typically share for those taking care of elderly parents:

1. Keep A Daily Health Care Journal. Pick up an inexpensive calendar at the office supply store. Find one that has enough room to document your loved one’s symptoms, activities, and struggles for each day of the month. You might also want to include what they ate and how much water they drank. For example, is your mother having difficulty sleeping several nights a week? Do her symptoms seem to get worse after meal time? These are all important symptoms to document. The day before you take your family member to their physician, review and summarize their health journal. Have it organized and ready to share during the appointment.

2. Asking Physicians Questions. If you’ve been to a physician’s office in the last few years you know how busy they are. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions. Put together your list before the appointment so you can be ready to review it with them. Being proactive and taking the appropriate steps for an early intervention can reverse or delay the progress of an illness or disease. Both are important to you and to the physician. While they might be short on time, they generally do want you to have the answers you need to provide good care. If you feel like your senior loved one’s physician can’t or won’t take time to answer your questions, it might be time to explore options for a new health care partner.

3. Keep a Health Care File. This is another key component of helping to coordinate your aging loved one’s care. It is especially important when multiple physicians are involved. Keep copies of all medical tests and results, a list of medications, an allergy list, and a contact sheet with all of their physicians’ names, addresses and phone numbers. Make extra copies and take the file with you to each of their appointments so you can provide each physician with updated information.

The bottom line is to think of yourself as one half of a care partnership with your senior loved one’s physician being the other half. You are the eyes and ears of the relationship because you see your family member every day. The information you convey to the physicians during your elderly doctor visits helps them make an accurate diagnosis in the most efficient manner.