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
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
- 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
- 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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