Should I Go to the Doctor Visits with My Elderly Parent?

Elder care can be a very rewarding endeavor.  If you are an Informal Caregiver, (A family member, friend, or any other person who provides elder care without pay) you may not have professional training in caring for the elderly.  This was my case.  I was thrown into the role without any formal training.  I’m the only one of my parent’s children who lives close by.  I had to learn by trial and error.

I developed a philosophy of;  “I don’t want to take away from them something they are still able to do.  Taking away things from them when they are still able to do them creates a dependency on me.  Soon, they become unable to do them at all.  Every time I take over something, it erodes their self esteem regarding their ability to take care of themselves.”  You may not agree with my philosophy, but it has worked well for me.

One of the first areas our senior citizens needs help with is doctor visits.  Obviously, we don’t want them to feel as though we think they are incompetent to deal with the doctor.  But, it’s imperative to their health and well being to stay up to date and properly informed on their health care visits.  By having a second set of ears at these visits gives our beloved elder a better sense of security and helps the doctor give better care.

How do we know when it’s time to tag alone on their doctor visits?  One of the first signs to watch for is their inability to recall what the doctor said on their appointment.  I’m not suggesting a Spanish Inquisition when they get home, but I found that if I asked some pointed questions about the appointment it gave me a gauge to know how well they were comprehending what’s going on at these visits.

Another sign which let me know it was time to go with them was when they started missing appointments.  They had forgotten to write the appointment down and completely missed the appointment.  When I went with them, it gave us both an opportunity to write it in our appointment books and calendars.  A gentle reminder a few days in advance of the appointment seemed to give my parents a better sense of security.

For me, not having special training, I relied on my gut, or instinct.  By using my gut feelings, it was evident when it was time to start going with them.  My parents were relieved to have me accompany them.  It proved to be imperative to have my eyes and ears at the visits.

I kept a notebook/journal in my purse dedicated to their health care.  By having it my purse, I always had it with me wherever I went.  I could add questions as we thought of them.  I had all the professional caregivers’ phone numbers and information in it.  Some people might find it easier to use their phone or PDA.  I think it’s important to use something you can keep with you at all times.  If you decide to use an electronic device, be sure to back it up often.  I found out the hard way about back ups!

I had each page labeled with their name, date, and list of medications with dosages.  I would write down any questions we wished to ask the doctor.  I would record their blood pressure that day and whether they had any blood drawn.  I left a blank section on the page for doctor’s comments and concerns. This was very helpful for me in staying organized.  Later, I expanded it for different health care people such as the in home nurse who stopped in to do their medications and take their blood pressure etc.  As my parents’ health continued to erode, I counted on my notes more and more every day.

As time moved on, I became the “go to person” for my mother-in-law and a dear friend who’s children passed before him.  If I hadn’t had “my system”, I would have gone bonkers trying to keep everyone’s health issues straight in my mind. It could have been disastrous to get them mixed up!

Elder care can be very fulfilling.  When we participate in their health care we are providing a gift of love which makes a huge difference in their lives.  It is easier for us if we can do it with love, compassion, and organization.  After all, they gave so much to us as we grew and matured.  Competent elder care is a life changing gift we can give back.

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