Many seniors have medical conditions. They see doctors regularly, but adult children and concerned friends aren’t always confident that seniors are getting the best care possible. The situation is even more complicated when multiple physicians are involved.
How do you know your senior is getting and following the best medical treatment? The ideal solution is to attend every medical appointment, but this rarely possible in the real world.
There are several tips and techniques that can help you monitor the medical treatments.
- Get the approval from the senior for you to talk directly to the physician. Contact each physician’s office and ask for the forms that will allow the doctor and office to discuss restricted medical information with you. The senior must sign the forms. Contrary to popular belief, the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ) law does permit an adult to give the physician the right to discuss medical information with another person. Verify with each office that the signed form is in the patient’s file — before you need to talk to them. The Department of Health and Human Services has a simple overview of the HIPPA laws. Everyone should understand the basic rules so they are not surprised during a medical emergency.
- Know which pharmacy the senior uses. Obtain that phone number and keep it handy, even if you are in a different city. A significant number of medical problems are related to medication issues – either prescriptions not filled or medication dosage or timing not understood. Pharmacists are the unsung heroes in helping seniors stay on track.
- Ask your senior to save copies of medical statements from every doctor’s visits. Review them when you can.
- If you cannot be at the appointment, ask your senior to discuss the visit with you. Ask about findings, medications, and treatments. Avoid sounding like an inquisitor. Share with them that your goal is to help understand their medical situation so you can help if needed.
- Verify the senior takes a current and accurate copy of their medications to each appointment.
- If a senior develops a serious medical condition, learn the basics by visiting sites like web.med and Mayo Clinic. These sites provide helpful information so you are prepared when talking to the senior and to the doctor. It would be nice if an ophthalmologist would spend an hour on the phone with you explaining the basics of macular degeneration, but that won’t happen. Expect only five minutes of his time and be prepared with the right questions.
- Encourage the senior to track how they feel, but not to the point where they are looking for problems or issues. Trends of feeling better — or feeling worse — are important diagnostic indicators, and may need followup.
- Understand that seniors can have multiple conditions and each specialist may focus only on her area of expertise. The senior’s general practitioner, internist, or family medicine doctor is the key to coordinating and understanding the cross impacts of medication, surgical procedures, and chronic conditions. Use that doctor as your central point for guidance. She may be just as busy as the specialists, but she is trained to consider the entire patient. Medical decisions should be validated while considering the entire patient. Verify that you have copies of documents from the doctors and continue to receive each new report from the specialists.
Medical oversight is not easy in today’s complex world, but it can help provide the senior with better medical care and a better quality of life.