INALA Conversations: Talking with Doctors (Part I)

Jun 16 2016

INALA Conversations: Talking with Doctors (Part I)

Starting a tough conversation about health, finances and living situations with a loved one can be difficult- but it doesn’t have to be. The INALA Conversations series is a resource to help prepare you for those discussions. Let us help guide you through these important conversations with some helpful tips and insight. 

We are our parents’ children. It isn’t really surprising your parent finds it embarrassing, intrusive or demeaning when you want to go to the doctor with them. You will always be their child, and now the roles are reversing. So how do you explain the necessity and ask to be included?

Let’s be honest, it isn’t easy. You aren’t asking for the bicycle you wanted as a kid, so begging and/or pouting won’t do any good. Demanding probably won’t work either. Anyone who changed your diapers has some experience with your demands.

Respectful honesty is your best choice. Start the conversation early, before they really need you to be there. Explain it is because you love them and you worry. Get their agreement to let you take part when you see the need. Even if your parent doesn’t see the necessity, you are asking for the gift of sharing a part of their life they’ve kept private.

Open the door a crack by asking them to give the doctor written permission to discuss their health care with you. Communication will be key and this is the starting point. 

If being present for the exam isn’t comfortable, offer to come in after the exam to be an extra set of ears. Many people, regardless of age, benefit from another active listener in a doctor’s office.

Prior to your parent’s doctor’s visit, communicate your observations, questions and issues with the doctor. You can do this even if you aren’t going with your parent. Don’t assume the doctor will always see what you see. Many people in early dementia can put on a good show and fool almost everyone, including their doctor.

Whether your parents have asked you for help or you’ve inserted yourself into the equation, your role is about to change. You are about to become the appointment scheduler, record keeper, transportation coordinator, communications director and patient advocate.

This conversation may not be easy but the key is getting started.

Stay tuned for next week’s post! Talking with Doctors: Part 2