January 3, 2020
Of the many responsibilities a family caregiver faces, possibly one of the most daunting is managing health problems. The National Council on Aging estimates that around ¾ of all older adults are identified as having at least two chronic diseases, and they are seeing on average four medical experts.
As your loved one’s elder care advocate, it is very important to learn how to communicate effectively with those on the older adult’s medical team, and to arrive at appointments completely prepared to address any and all concerns. The following four questions are an excellent place to start:
- Are all of the prescription drugs required? With most older adults taking many medications, you’ll want to keep an in-depth list of all meds, and examine it regularly with the doctor as well as the pharmacist, each of whom should be able to make sure there aren’t any duplications prescribed by different specialists, or any contraindications between medications.
- If prescribing anything new, what side effects might we be prepared to see? Weighing the benefits vs. the potential risks for any new medication is a must, as there may be instances when troublesome side effects outweigh any positives provided. And if the physician offers a blanket statement such as, “Most people do not suffer from any difficulties with this medication,” be sure to follow through to learn more about those who DO encounter problems.
- What is the best way to relieve pain and discomfort? We’re all conscious of the opioid epidemic, and the risk of addiction and other concerns that come with taking prescription pain medications. Yet unaddressed pain and discomfort can lead to both delayed healing and considerable emotional stress, both for the senior experiencing pain along with his or her caregivers.
- If this were your father, what would you do? Inviting the physician to step into your shoes is frequently an incredibly helpful method to gauge how you may wish to move forward. There may, in fact, be less invasive or aggressive means to managing a challenge which you might like to investigate first.
- Accompanying a senior loved one to medical appointments and procedures and making certain questions are answered
- Ensuring prescriptions are taken just as prescribed
- Proactively monitoring for any changes in condition, such as medication side effects, and reporting them immediately
- Planning and preparing wholesome meals and offering encouragement to stay physically active to enhance health
- And so much more