Tips on Improving Communication with your Parent's Medical Team
1. Do the Legal Paperwork
Give the doctor copies of your parent's signed health care proxy or durable medical power of attorney so the doctor knows who in the family is responsible for making health care decisions should your parent be unable to do so. In addition, have your parent give the doctor a list of family members allowed access to her medical condition. Most doctors will have the patient sign consent forms so they can speak with that family member without the patient's presence.
2. Pick One Family Liaison
Pick one person from the family that you want the physician to speak to and who will then transmit this information to the rest of the family. Physicians do not have time to field phone calls from several family members
3. Attend Doctor's Appointments
Even if you just attend one appointment, it makes a difference. Ask the doctor how he/she wants to be contacted and give the doctor a list of all the ways you can be contacted. If you can't attend the visit, contact the physician afterward but don't get flustered if you don't hear back immediately. Doctors are busy, and some have more support staff than others to help field calls and answer emails.
4. Don't Assume Doctors are Sharing Information
You should absolutely not assume that your parent's doctors are talking to each other. Because they're not. You have to be an advocate and keep your own records. This includes making a list of all your parent's doctors, their medications, and their pharmacy phone number. Distribute the list to each physician and update it as necessary.
5. Use One Medical Group
If all your parent's doctors are affiliated with the same hospital or large medical practice, it's much easier for their primary care doctor to keep abreast of a patient's health status from the various specialists. If it's just not possible to have all medical providers practicing in the same group, it is extremely important that you or a Care Manager keep notes at medical appointments and report to the rest of the care team. Having one notebook or file to document all of this information can be helpful as the information remains in one place and there is only one record to bring to medical appointments.
6. Switch Doctors if Necessary
As a parent’s health deteriorates, it is important to be able to communicate with their doctor between appointments. If your parent’s doctor is hard to reach, consider switching. If you don’t communicate well in a normal stage, then a crisis stage that is a problem will be magnified.