Tips for Caregivers Communicating with Health Care Professionals
As a caregiver you are in constant communication with many different people, in many different roles. From family, friends, coworkers, employers, health care professionals, insurance companies, lawyers and bill collectors to a loved one that may not fully understand what is happening and will no longer be the person they used to be. Learning productive, assertive and clear communication skills is crucial to your success as a caregiver and attaining the best results. Especially when dealing with the countless medications, doctors and hospital visits.
In order to achieve this, one must have patience, self-control, and organization. Here are a few tips from The American Heart Association on communicating with healthcare professionals.
- Be sure the doctor understands your role. If your loved one is not able (or willing) to take instruction, make sure that the doctor tells you all the vital information.
- Explain the practical side of your situation. This can help the professionals adjust and make practical suggestions in return. For example, you might say to the doctor, “It’s better for my job if we can meet early in the morning.” The doctor might reply, “Not a problem. I’ll let my assistant know to schedule us for the first available appointment each time we meet.”
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. Use the Internet as a tool, but stick with reliable sources of information. Pose specific questions to your health care professional if you don’t understand something about your loved one’s condition. It’s especially important to know what would represent an emergency situation for your loved one.
- Keep records of your loved one’s habits. Take note of your loved one’s sleeping, eating and medication habits, as well as any emotional episodes. The more detailed information you can offer about symptoms and habits, the easier it will be for your doctor to offer your loved one the best treatment.
- Take time to make decisions about care. If a situation isn’t life-threatening, take the time you need to make a decision. Your health care professional will understand if you request time to discuss the matter with your loved one and other family members.
- Appoint one family member as the main contact. It will help everyone involved if your family specifies a primary point of contact for the health care team. This will avoid confusion and save time for the doctors and nurses. The appointed person can communicate all information and necessary decisions to be made with the rest of the family.
- Hold conversations in appropriate places. You deserve the doctor’s full attention. For important conversations, seek out a private conference room or office, not a waiting room or corridor.
- Ask about other resources. The health care staff can be invaluable. They can point you toward support groups and even suggest resources that can aid in paying for medications. They can also share in-home care options with you.
- Write it down. Have everything that’s on your mind written down before you speak with the health care team. This can help you guard against forgetting something important.
- Feel free to change. Sometimes, a health care professional turns out be a less than perfect fit — either professionally or emotionally. If that’s the case, ask to see someone else in the practice or seek out another place of care.
- Be appreciative. Don’t forget to thank the health care team for all that they do. A little kindness and recognition goes a long way.
Remember, be assertive, honest and patient. The journey as a caregiver is a long one and will require support from your family, friends and professionals in the field. Support networks are also a great outlet and origin of resources. In a group setting you are able to be empowered by a community of survivors, who have had similar experiences and can help bring useful insight and advice to questions you may have.
Sources: The American Heart Association