This is the final installment of our 3-part series on becoming your parent’s healthcare advocate. In the first part, Being a Healthcare Advocate: How to Get Started, we learned how to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition. In part two, Being a Healthcare Advocate: 9 Important Tips, we tackled how to manage documentation and record keeping. In this final piece, we address best practices for working effectively with healthcare professionals.
The first time you attend a doctor’s appointment as your parent’s healthcare advocate, you might feel a little awkward. That’s natural. You’re kind of like a third wheel, stepping into what was previously a very private and intimate conversation.
To prepare for this, it’s helpful to establish preferences and expectations with your parent up front. Does your parent want to take the lead and just have you present as an extra set of eyes and ears, or will you be taking a more active role in communicating with the doctor. Talk with your parent in advance so you are both on the same page with your game plan.
It’s a good idea to bring the health journal mentioned previously with you to appointments both for reference and as a place to take notes about any questions and answers discussed with the physician or nurse. (While you might be tempted to record conversations with doctors using your phone or other device, this can sometimes make physicians uncomfortable. If you must, it’s best to ask permission first.)
Try to keep appointments focused on the two or three most pressing issues. Respect the role you agreed to in your pre-visit conversation with your parent, but don’t be afraid to speak up if questions are either overlooked or not answered to your satisfaction. Ask for clarification if you’re unsure of a term or instructions.
If your parent sees multiple doctors, don’t assume that they are all communicating with one another. It’s part of your job as a healthcare advocate to bridge the gap between different parts of your parent’s care and ensure that all parties are up to date on the latest developments and treatments. Diligent record keeping and communication are a major part of any healthcare advocate’s duties. While doctors may lay claim to the medical expertise needed to care for your parent, you are the expert on your parent’s overall health and treatment.
Becoming a healthcare advocate for a parent is a big responsibility both logistically and emotionally, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience for you or your parent. Making time to have important conversations before you step into your role can go a long way toward preparing you both for the changes ahead. Collecting and reviewing all the relevant information before you dive into attending doctor’s appointments and handling other details will help you feel more confident and capable. And, finally, knowing how to effectively engage healthcare professionals in the doctor’s office and beyond will put you and your parent more at ease during those visits.
And that’s a big part of being a supportive healthcare advocate – making the journey less stressful for everyone involved.