Caregivers often find themselves in the crucial roles of communicator and decision-maker during their loved one’s medical appointments. However, this responsibility can be daunting, especially when you feel unfamiliar with medical settings and jargon, or worry that you shouldn’t burden health care professionals with questions they’ve probably answered a hundred times before.
But as challenging as it is, it is important to communicate comfortably and confidently with a loved one’s care team in order to build a relationship and a strong sense of teamwork as you work together to improve your loved one’s wellbeing. Here are just a few tips you can use to improve communication when working with a care team:
1. Do Your Research
As a caregiver, you don’t need to be a medical expert, but understanding your loved one’s specific health condition or disability is beneficial. Prior to discussions with healthcare professionals, familiarize yourself with relevant details. This knowledge will enable you to ask informed questions and explore your options effectively.
2. Get to Know the Care Team
Trust and comfort with your loved one’s care providers are essential. During initial interactions with healthcare professionals, take time to introduce yourself and your role as a caregiver. Learn about their qualifications and backgrounds. Pay attention to whether you feel heard and respected, and ensure your loved one feels safe and comfortable with them.
3. Document Relevant Information
You have unique insights into your loved one’s daily life that healthcare professionals may not be aware of. Keep records of their behaviors, concerns, challenges, and other relevant observations. This documentation will help you remember crucial details and facilitate productive discussions.
4. Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions
Never be afraid to ask questions about your loved one’s care. Healthcare professionals understand that you may not be an expert. They value your involvement and recognize that informed decisions require knowledge. Asking questions is a proactive way to ensure your loved one receives the best care possible.
5. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
When talking with professionals, it’s reasonable to want to be heard and respected. Caregivers often serve as advocates, and thus shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when they have concerns. But just as you need to feel comfortable with the professionals caring for your loved one, they also need to feel comfortable with you. Being combative with them can lead to conflict which can distract from and complicate a loved one’s care.
6. Take Detailed Notes
Medical discussions can be overwhelming, with a lot of information to absorb. To stay organized, jot down your questions and concerns before, during, and after discussions. Record the answers and any crucial information shared. This practice will help you remember important details and next steps.
7. Seek Additional Resources
Your loved one’s care extends beyond medical appointments. Don’t hesitate to ask healthcare professionals about available resources, such as respite services, home health care, care coaching, disease-specific organizations or support groups. These resources can provide valuable support and guidance.
8. Recognize When Changes are Needed
Sometimes, a healthcare professional may not be the right fit for your loved one’s needs. If you or your loved one feel that the current situation is not benefiting everyone, consider exploring alternative options for care.