Part 1 – How to Advocate for Older Adults at the Hospital/Doctor’s Office

If your parent/grandparent was at a doctor’s appointment or in the hospital, would you know how to advocate them? Would you know how to help them make the best medical decisions? 

Today I’m starting Part 1 of a three-part blog/video series on how you can advocate for an older adult at the hospital or doctor’s office. When grandparents/parents were sick, there are times together we had to make some difficult decisions. The kind where you choose between liver and lima beans. The kind where you’re just not sure what to do. Thankfully, I had the blessing of working with skilled doctors, nurses, and social workers who I could ask for sound advice.

“In your experience with older adults or with cancer, what would you advise?” I would ask. It was always helpful to be able to bounce thoughts and ideas off of skilled professionals who I could trust!. Their insight helped my family and I immensely as we tried to navigate new waters. When you’re at the hospital or doctor’s office and you hear bad news about your loved one, often we are screaming for a good solution. We’re constantly questioning decisions we make. That’s why I wanted to share what I have learned with you. Here we go.

In order to advocate and help an older person make the best healthcare decisions, you need to  have a clear picture of what is going on with their health. Sometimes we as caregivers make the mistake of simply listening to the diagnosis that the doctor gives. We don’t ask questions; we don’t know what’s really going on. That leaves us in the bad place. When you don’t truly understand what health issue your loved one is facing, you won’t feel confident that you’re helping them make the best decision for next steps. 

YOUR GOAL: Get a clear picture of what is going on. 

A good physician is one that helps you get a clear understanding of what is happening.. Realistically, not every physician is skilled in communicating. If you have a physician who isn’t gifted in communication and getting a new doctor is not easy, don’t fret. If you can get a clear picture of what is going on in your loved one’s health and have good questions that can help you determine the next best steps, then you can should feel good because getting a clear picture of what’s happening is half the battle. 

How can you advocate and get a realistic picture of what’s happening? 

  1. Ask questions. Write down words you don’t understand. Look it up later on or ask the medical professional. 
  2. Write down what the doctor tells you so you can refer back to it later. 
  3. Possible questions to ask:

  • What does this term mean? 
  • Where is my loved one on the spectrum of illness? 
  • Do you see my loved one getting more sick? 

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