One of the most important components of good caregiving and in fact, good health – is advocacy.
Report after report refers to the need for patient navigation. I, along with my fellow bloggers have all echoed the importance of Powers of Attorney. Having someone who knows your wishes, desires and particular circumstance and who can speak for you when you can no longer speak for yourself, is absolutely required. However the role of the patient navigator, advocate, care manager is different. It may well be your POA but it does not have to be.
Many adults who are quite capable can easily become overwhelmed trying to navigate our health care system. We know our doctors are busy- sometimes too busy to answer our questions. How often have you been able to talk to someone on first try, when calling to make a doctor’s appointment and not gotten lost in the voice mail?
More critically, how often is medical advice not followed or misinterpreted because clarifying or questioning the doctor is not possible?
A few things I recommend that you can do on your own:
Keep notes of your own medical history
Keep copies of test results and diagnostic reports
Prepare your story- when did the symptoms first appear, what has occurred, why are you concerned now, what has changed, what side effects are you experiencing
List your allergies
Identify other concurrent issues, either health, familial or environmentally related
Prepare a list of your medications (or printout from the pharmacy)
Write down your questions and concerns
At the appointment:
Ask your questions
Write down the answers
If the doctor uses terms you are not familiar with, ask for clarification
Confirm where results will be sent or if reviewing results with the doctor, ask for a copy for your own safe keeping
Verify when a return visit should be made and next steps to be taken
Whenever possible, have a family member accompany the senior to the appointment. If all else fails, hire your own patient navigator or care manager.