A Helping Hand for Hoosier Alzheimer's Caregivers  - When you need a helping hand
Talking to the Physician

In addition to taking on the household chores, shopping, transportation, and personal care, 37 percent of caregivers also administer medications, injections, and medical treatment to the person for whom they care. Some 77 percent of those caregivers report the need to ask for advice about the medications and medical treatments. The person they usually turn to is their physician.

But while caregivers will discuss their loved one's care with the physician, caregivers seldom talk about their own health, which is equally important. Building a partnership with a physician that addresses the health needs of the care recipient and the caregiver is crucial.

The responsibility of this partnership ideally is shared between you the caregiver, the physician, and other healthcare staff. However, it will often fall to you to be assertive, using good communication skills, to ensure that everyone's needs are met—including your own.

Tips on Communicating with Your Physician

  • Prepare questions ahead of time

  • Make a list of your most important concerns and problems. Issues you might want to discuss with the physician are changes in symptoms, medications or general health of the care recipient, your own comfort in your caregiving situation, or specific help you need to provide care

  • Enlist the help of the nurse.

  • Many caregiving questions relate more to nursing than to medicine. In particular, the nurse can answer questions about various tests and examinations, preparing for surgical procedures, providing personal care, and managing medications at home.

  • Make sure your appointment meets your needs. For example, the first appointment in the morning or after lunch and the last appointment in the day are the best times to reduce your waiting time or accommodate numerous questions. When you schedule your appointment, be sure you convey clearly the reasons for your visit so that enough time is allowed.

  • Call ahead. Before the appointment, check to see if the doctor is on schedule. Remind the receptionist of special needs when you arrive at the office.

  • Take someone with you. A companion can ask questions you feel uncomfortable asking and can help you remember what the physician and nurse said.

  • Use assertive communication and "I" messages. Enlist the medical care team as partners in care. Present what you need, what your concerns are, and how the doctor and/or nurse can help. Use specific, clear "I" statements like the following: "I need to know more about the diagnosis; I will feel better prepared for the future if I know what's in store for me." Or "I am feeling rundown. I'd like to make an appointment for myself and my husband next week."

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