One of the key roles a family caregiver can fill is assisting an aging parent or loved one with doctor’s visits, medication schedules and maintaining a treatment regimen for chronic conditions.
However, opening the doors to good communication with medical professionals can be intimidating and a struggle for some caregivers. The June/July 2013 issue of Neurology Now magazine features an article “Five Questions to Ask Your Neurologist” by Orly Avitzur, MD. This information-packed article coaches patients and their caregivers on asking questions that can open doors to a successful communication strategy with health care providers.
Family caregivers and aging parents might consider practicing the following questions prior to their next doctor’s visit:
1. Should We Get a Second Opinion?
Most physicians welcome a second opinion and can help steer you in the direction of obtaining that opinion. By encouraging your medical team to collaborate and share information, your loved one may have access to more treatments and options. Very few treatment centers have the funding or expertise to offer all treatment options for all medical concerns, sometimes travel to another location may be suggested and this type of conversation can be explored during the discussion of a need for a second opinion.
2. Should We Start Making Plans to Change Our Home ?
Discuss your living arrangement with your physician so that potential obstacles such as two-story homes can be addressed before they become an even greater hardship. Having a conversation about relocating to a more manageable home allows time for decision-making opportunities and a careful review of all options. Also, any health concerns or limitations by the family caregiver should be addressed. For instance, a caregiver’s planned surgery could impact the care plan of the patient.
3. Will This Test Impact Patient Care?
Asking your family member’s physician if a proposed test will alter the course of treatment of a pre-existing condition may open the door for an in-depth conversation about ongoing treatment plans and regimens.
4. What Side Effects Can Occur With This New Medication?
We may have pre-conceived ideas of the various side effects of popular medications. Asking about side effects versus the impact of the medication on the disease allows patient and physician the opportunity to weigh each side of the discussion to determine the best course of treatment for each circumstance.
5. How Will This Treatment Improve My Loved One’s Quality of Life?
Medical experts tend to evaluate the success of a treatment by the control of the disease or its symptoms. Patients, however, may weigh the success of the treatment on their quality of life and their ability to participate in the activities that they love. It’s important to have this conversation with the physician so that both sides of the treatment goal can be addressed. Sometimes the treatment goal can be met by making lifestyle adjustments that can accommodate treatment and a good quality of life.
Dr. Avitzur’s article five questions are designed to help patients seek the best possible care by asking important questions about their health, their treatment, and their lifestyle.