It’s often difficult for older people to deal effectively with the health care system. By advocating for your elderly loved one in during medical appointments, you can keep their health care on track and increase their well being and independence.
At Care is There Geriatric Care Management, we advocate for many clients during their medical appointments. This article contains tips we share with family members who attend medical appointments with their loved ones.
You can also download our Tip Sheet for Advocating During Medical Appointments. See the link in the Files section below.
How Care is There Geriatric Care Management Can Help
If you live at a distance from your loved one, or if your job or family responsibilities prevent you from attending medical appointments with them, Care is There Geriatric Care Management can help by being their professional advocates. Contact us at 800.434.1633 or Info@CareisThere.com for a free consultation and we’ll tell you more.
For Loved Ones Living Independently
Prepare for the Appointment
- If there is doubt about the date, time, and place of the appointment, verify them with the doctor’s office. Clarify registration procedures.
- If you have not been to the office before, consider going in advance to verify the location and to determine convenient parking arrangements. If your loved one has trouble walking, ask about drop off procedures or wheelchair availability.
- Clarify the purpose of the appointment.
- Make a list of questions to ask the doctor.
- If other loved ones are involved in the care process, consider reminding them of the appointment and asking whether they have questions or information for the doctor.
- Determine if information, devices, etc. need to be brought to the appointment and, if so, gather them.
- If relevant, communicate with the doctor’s office in advance to confirm that test results have been received or to make special requests for issues to be brought up in the appointment.
- If you have access to your loved one’s electronic medical records, log into their online portal and review the record to see if updating is necessary.
- If the time of the appointment crosses meal times or medication administration times, make appropriate arrangements for early or late meals, snacks, medication, etc.
Pick up Your Loved One for the Appointment
- If your loved one experiences memory loss, call them prior to the appointment to remind them that you will be picking them up.
- Print and bring two or three copies of current medication list, medical history, list of questions for the doctor, and HIPAA release forms. One copy is for your reference and notes; one is for you to give to the health care providers, and one copy is for your loved one, if they would like one.
- Plan to arrive at your loved one’s home with plenty of time for last minute preparations (see next item) and for unrushed travel.
- Be sure your loved one is prepared for the appointment. For example, they should
- be dressed appropriately for the weather
- be wearing their hearing aids (with working batteries) and their glasses
- have their insurance cards with them
- have their house key
- have the opportunity to use the bathroom before they leave home
- bring reading materials or other comforts if they may be waiting for long periods
Attend the Appointment
- Introduce your loved one and yourself to the receptionist, and determine if any forms need to be filled out. Ask specifically for the HIPAA form utilized by that office, and ensure your loved one fills out the form with the names of people they want to authorize that office to be speak with about their care. If your loved one has asked you to advocate for them, ask your loved one to include your name on the list.
- Remind the nurse and the doctor about the purpose of the appointment, and be clear about the goals you and your loved one have for the appointment.
- Remember to include your loved one in all interactions with the doctor. Encourage the doctor to speak to your loved one, not to you. Try not to speak for your loved one, but do remind them if they forget to describe symptoms.
- Take notes of what the doctor says, making special notes of next steps.
- Compare your version of your loved one’s medication list with the the one in the electronic medical record utilized at the doctor’s office, making corrections as necessary. If you are unsure whether your loved one is actually taking the medications on the list, be sure the doctor or nurse are made aware of that.
- If a new medication is prescribed:
- Ask how the medication should be taken, how long it should be taken, and how your loved one can determine whether the desired benefits are occurring.
- Ask if the new medication could have unfavorable interaction with anything else your loved one is taking, including food, alcohol or nonprescription drugs.
- Find out both the brand name and the generic name of the medication.
- Ask if there are any special side effects or symptoms that you and your loved one should watch for. Ask if the medication is on the Beer’s List.
- If you or your loved one are concerned that the administration of the medication may be difficult for your loved one, discuss with your loved one and the doctor to determine if a solution can be devised.
- If a procedure or test is recommended, make sure everyone understands:
- The purpose of the test and what the process will be like, if needed
- When it will be performed
- Where it will be performed
- If another provider can be used (in cases in which another provider could be more appropriate for your loved one)
- How the results will get back to the doctor
- How to prepare for the test (for example, don’t eat anything before the blood is drawn, or wear loose fitting clothing, etc.)
- What the next steps will be after the test
- Ensure your loved one is satisfied before the doctor leaves
- Set up another appointment if necessary, and determine who should attend the appointment with your loved one.
Do Follow Up Actions
- Pick up prescriptions and arrange for pill boxes to be filled by you, your loved one, a family member, or a licensed home health care agency
- Make appointments for any follow up tests or procedures
- Update medication lists
- Perform any other follow-up tasks
- If your loved one is supposed to be contacted within a timeframe (“we’ll call you with your appointment tomorrow”) verify that the communication took place. If not, take appropriate actions.
For Loved Ones in Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Care
See the steps above, with these differences:
- Determine the proper method of transportation for your loved one, arrange it in advance, and confirm it on the day of the appointment
- If appropriate, communicate with the facility staff to ensure your loved one will be available during the appointment time (vs being on an excursion, at a meal, etc.)
- Coordinate with the facility staff to obtain updated medication lists, medical history, description of symptoms, etc. The staff will probably have paperwork for you to take with you to the appointment and to bring back. Sometimes facilities have forms for the doctors or care providers to fill out, such as forms for new orders or prescriptions. When you pick up the paperwork ask if there are any such forms and how those forms should be filled out.
- Usually the packet contains a “facesheet” which contains a summary of information about your loved one. If you have an opportunity (for example, while waiting in the waiting room), this would be a good time to review the facesheet and make any corrections.
When you return, be sure to talk with the appropriate people about the outcome of the appointment, including new paperwork, feedback, etc.
- National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants
- The Health Advocates Code of Conduct and Professional Standards
Call Care is There Geriatric Care Management at 800.434.1633 or Info@CareisThere.com for a free consultation about how we can be your loved one's advocate in medical appointments.