If you are a long distance care provider – be a patient advocate- take your relative to his or her physician and go in the examining room with them.
Before your trip to your elderly relative:
ØCall to make an appointment with your elderly relative’s physician on a date during your visit.
ØIn the call
ØAsk to talk to his her RN, and get a good understanding of the doctor’s practice, so you can ask the best questions. Is she an internist, general practionioner, or geriatrician?
ØIf you have concerns, like increased confusion, a fall that you think important to discuss, tell the RN and send them to the office, via fax or e-mail, prior to the appointment. Ask if she/he can show to the doctor.
ØGive yourself your important job title–. You are a main caregiver and have a vital interest in this visit. If you are the power of attorney for health care make sure the RN knows that. Ask about a HIPAA Release of Information Form, and make sure one is on file at the doctor’s office so that you can talk about private information about the older person with the doctor.
Before the doctor’s visit
ØTalk to the older person and ask what they’d like to discuss to with the doctor.
ØMake list of all the questions you or your elderly relative wants to ask and symptoms that worry you both. Physicians like short precise information. Remember that physician’s appointments are brief – like 10 minutes make the questions concise and short. Take these with you and either can I pad, I phone or pen and paper.
During the doctors visit
Be a patient advocate. Go in to the examining room to see the doctor with your elderly relative. Be friendly and communicate and with a smile. This simple sign can get you a long way. Cover your questions and concerns quickly and concisely. Listen to her/his answers and order and jot them down. If the doctor does not it bring up, ask if there are any medication changes and record these as well. Note any additional tests the doctor orders to be sure your parent follows up.
After the doctor’s visit
ØGo to the pharmacy and pick up any new medication
Ask the pharmacist They know more than the physician about drugs about all new and old meds: purpose, directions, dose, potential problems. You can do this at any large pharmacy. Just ask to talk to a pharmacist.
ØIf you have hired a geriatric care manager they will do this for you and report back the results after the visit.
Geriatric Care Managers (GCM’s) solve the problems of older people and aging families with tools of geriatric assessment and care plans. They unravel the changing needs of older clients and their family and private and family caregivers by regularly monitoring and assessing their needs.
GCMs have what I call a “ Whole Family” approach. With the “Whole Family” tool, the GCM serves the older client but also organizes the aging family and midlife siblings to work as a team to support the older person. Now that the family is no longer Ozzie and Harriet and has morphed into the extended family ( Modern Family)- this is vital. Stepsibling adult children can cut off other siblings or step parents and fracture the potential to field a family team This takes viewing the family system with an assessment labeled a family genogram, which can measure who is relating to whom and who is cut off from whom. GCM’s then help reorganize the aging family to support them to share the care for the older person.
This support to the family by the GCM is especially given to the designated family caregiver, as they provide direct care to the older client and may make decisions about care. GCM’s also may also oftem provide support a long distance care provider .Giving direct hands on care or long distance care can spiral into caregiver stress and burnout. A GCM will use a caregiver assessment tool to measure caregiver strain, which often spins an aging family into chaos.
Robot and Frank was one my favorite 2012 aging films. Frank, a master burglar is presented a robot by his overwrought, burnt out adult son. Frank has early dementia. He hates the robot but trains him to increase his quality of life, which is returning to his career- grand theft. This New York Times article has a different story about robots – but a similar vein. They meet a need. There are less adult children and caregivers to care for the elderly and more and more older adults – and thus – the niche market for robots .
If you are a long distance care provider visiting Mom on Mother’s day you can give more than a gift. You can make connections with her formal and informal supports to offer on –going buoys to your aging Mom. You can make good contacts with the informal support network of others who see the your Mom regularly (friends, church members). These contacts will be a great source of information when you, the long distance caregiver get back home.
Friends in spiritual groups are a really important contact. If she goes to church a synagogue or mosque, maybe go with her. Get the name of contacts there who might help with driving her to services or find out if the spiritual groups has pick up service for elders.
Contact formal supports. If your mother is in a senior activity program in the community, introduce yourself to the head contact and ask if they will give you periodic updates via e-mail or text. For example, my dad was in a social day program. If your relative is in a similar program, have someone in the program report to you on a regular basis. – Text – e-mail, phone calls, stamped self-addressed envelopes -all good.
If your mother is in a community program such as one for exercise, art, knitting, or some sort of support group, make an appointment with them and introduce yourself. Set up periodic reports via e-mail, text, mail or phone.
Take home the telephone directory. Better yet use the web. Find the web site of the local Senior Information and Referral program from the goverment’s Elderlocator . They will give you the Senior I&R contact in your Mom’s area. Maybe get in touch with a senior information and referral professional ahead of the visit. Ask that Senior Information and Referral professional for suggestions any community programs you think your Mom might want to join.
This is the gift that will keep on giving- improved quality of life for Mom and peace of mind for you.