As a caregiver, you’ll wear many hats – companion, cook, chauffeur, housekeeper. But one of the most important roles of a caregiver is that of patient advocate. Seniors, in particular, need a good advocate within the health care system – someone who can be a voice and ask the crucial questions and gather critical information the patient may not be able ask herself. Check out these tips to be a more effective patient advocate for your loved one.
• When accompanying your loved one to the doctor, let him or her take the lead talking to the doctor, but be sure to ask for any explanation of unclear terms. If the doctor overlooks or fails to answer a question, don’t be afraid to follow up.
• Physicians are spending less time with each patient, so it’s a good idea to take notes during the visit and highlight anything that requires follow up. If the doctor allows, you might even consider recording the conversation.
A few important questions to ask:
- What will be the added benefit of this medication/procedure?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Will it affect his/her ability to function independently?
• Many physicians’ offices use a web-based patient portal to share medical information and health records with patients. Many of these portals require a username and password so be sure you have access to that information.
• Keep a patient journal of medical history, medications and diagnoses and bring this journal to each doctor visit. There are a number of web-based and mobile applications that help you keep a digital health history.
• Keep records of your loved one’s prescriptions as well as dosage information. Find out if there are generic alternatives, whether the pill can be crushed or split, and be sure to ask about the drug’s side effects and dangerous drug interactions.
• Encourage your loved one to draft a living will or healthcare directive.
• Get to know the specifics of your loved one’s health insurance: for instance, is a referral required for specialists. If you suspect a coverage issue, check the medical records against the bills and follow-up with the insurance company on any questionable charges.