You’re a caring care partner. Otherwise, why would you be there? And a big part of being there may involve attending your loved one’s doctor visits. It may become more necessary with time — especially as their medical care grows progressively complex due to serious illness, memory and comprehension issues, or even routine difficulties associated with aging.
We see it all the time. An elder loved one wants their daughter to attend a doctor visit because they feel a close family member or friend would better explain medical issues, needs and daily realities. A person living with dementia feels they may not remember care advice (or even to attend the appointment). Someone with a terminal illness feels they need an advocate to coordinate a network of care providers.
No reason for wanting a loved one to participate in doctor visits is too small or unnecessary. It’s everyone’s right to have an appropriate person present. A medical professional may ask you to step out for certain parts of an exam or consultation, but even then, most understand their patient would feel more comfortable with someone there to listen, document and advise care, if necessary.
Preparing to Attend a Loved One’s Doctor Visit
As you know, medical consultations and exams go more smoothly when everyone is prepared. Just as a physician must be prepared to analyze medical history and current conditions, your loved one (or you on your loved one’s behalf) must also be prepared.
Here are some ways to get ready.
Remember the Schedule
Your participation means nothing if one (or both) of you don’t show. We know, it’s hard to remember everything — especially when you’re a primary or central care partner. There may be many appointments with a variety of providers. For instance, if your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, you may see neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, geriatricians, primary care physicians, counselors and even cardiologists, not necessarily in any specific order.
Juggling the day-to-day may seem daunting with doctor visits, household chores, family events, financial/legal planning, grocery shopping (and, oh, what luck, the dog needs to go to the groomer). Mark everything down in a calendar. If you’re not tech savvy to manage an online planner or set phone notifications, a cheap day planner will work just fine.
Update the Medical History
Current doctors should know your loved one’s medical history and current prescriptions. Such information is readily shared among providers and, by law, even with competing health networks. Update and bring your loved one’s medical history anyway. If your loved one is seeing a new provider, it may take time for them to receive the latest and most comprehensive info.
It may seem superfluous. But being prepared could save a grave (and, yes, the literal definition of grave) oversight. It’s vital to know current prescriptions, other treatments and even vitamin/mineral supplements, and how they may interact with others. Even if something new won’t cause issues, it’s important to note if current ones are causing more harm than good.
Let the doctor know. Task all of the medical professionals involved in your loved one’s care with coordinating to find a solution.
Be Prepared to Listen
You know your loved one well — very well. You know how medications work, how they react physically and behaviorally, what they like and dislike. Of course, those are incredibly valuable perspectives. But as with anything — no matter how much research you’ve done on WebMD — your expertise may only go so far.
Be prepared to listen during a loved one’s doctor visits. A good physician will take your loved one’s needs and wishes into account. Your medical professional is, well, a professional with years of expert medical training. You may not agree with their opinion. (By all means, seek a second opinion when possible.) But a one-way dialog led only by you will only hinder, confuse and aggravate care decisions that could otherwise be easy, reasonable and negotiable with some respectful discussion.
Document, Document, Document
Your preparation doesn’t end before the doctor visit. A good care partner should always gear toward continual preparation. One doctor visit prepares for the next. Information gathered at one is valuable information not only for followup visits, but also sessions with every other doctor moving forward. If you learn a valuable insight into a cancer or dementia treatment on Tuesday, the other physician on Thursday must know the plan. (As we said earlier, it may take time for interoffice communication, even in this digital age, considering the thousands of patients a medical professional may see annually.)
Bring a notepad. Inform the doctor you are recording the session for your review later. Information isn’t a weapon, but rather a tool to guide the best possible care.
End of Life Care
There will come a time when care approaches its final stages. Naturally, our loved one’s doctor visits will cease life-saving efforts and prepare for the death transition. It’s inevitable for all of us.
So be prepared to discuss the end. What resources will your loved one and the care-partner team need? Will hospice be necessary to ease pain? Will the family require a death doula to provide comfort and other services to help the family? There are numerous factors to consider for a loved one to die with dignity.
Medical considerations may be the least of concerns. Love, honor and spirituality may become priority to prepare you, your loved one, and other families and loved ones for whatever your faith says lies beyond.
Are You Ready for Your Loved One’s Doctor Visits?
Whether you’re attending your loved one’s doctor visits for moral support or as a guiding force for care, your presence is critical to ensuring the most compassionate care possible.
When you need help, we are here. I am a Florida State Certified Patient Advocate. I help individuals to see a network of doctors, clinicians, specialists and other providers to address specific needs. I work alongside clients to secure care options in a variety of settings. I coordinate and attend medical appointments, if appropriate. I also help care-partner teams to organize important health care, financial and legal documents, as well as prescriptions and recommendations by health professionals.
Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC, can help you honor your loved one. We have over 25 years of experience with all aspects of life-care planning and can help you and your loved one build a plan that honors everyone’s wishes and needs. We’re happy to provide referrals and guide the process in a caring and compassionate way.