Five tips to improve caregiver and health care professional communication

Communication between family caregivers and health care professionals is essential. These five tips can improve conversations and ensure the best possible care for your loved one.

As people age, they commonly rely on other family members to help them and provide care. In fact, there are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers attending to the physical, mental and emotional needs of an aging relative in the United States, according to Pew Research Studies.

These caregivers might not be trained in health care, but they are constantly working with and talking to health care professionals on behalf of their loved one. As such, it’s important for caregivers to have clear and effective conversations with health care professionals to ensure everyone’s needs are being met.

Here are five tips to improve communication between family caregivers and health care professionals.

1. Always ask questions. As the caregiver, you are responsible for assessing medical needs, monitoring medications and preparing a care plan. Whether you are talking to a doctor, pharmacist or care unit manager, always ask questions about things you do not understand. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to assist your loved one. Also, when a caregiver frequently asks questions, it sends a strong message to the health care professional that you are involved, alert and aware of what is going on. Caregivers who continually ask questions will be in the loop and aware of all decisions being made.

2. Make sure everyone is on the same page. There are often multiple caregivers looking after an aging parent or relative. As such, it’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page and up to date on all information. This ensures that mixed messages are not being sent to health care professionals from the caregivers. Before attending a doctor appointment or consultation, ensure that all caregivers are in sync with each other so they can communicate the same message to the doctor. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure that the doctor’s vision is in line with the patient and caregivers vision.

3. Trust but verify. Caregivers should trust health care professionals and defer to their expertise. However, it’s important to verify decisions, especially if something seems wrong. Perhaps a prescription dosage seems amiss, or something has been overlooked. Caregivers should trust the professionals but know that it is OK to speak up on behalf of your loved one. Talk about misunderstandings to improve overall communication and quality of care.

4. Get to know each health care professional you’re working with. When it comes to the health of your loved one, it’s essential to know your health care professionals. Research your doctor, ask them about themselves and ask a few personal questions so you can relate to them. Communication will improve between caregiver and health care professional as you get to know them and they get to know you. People like to interact with other people; it helps us bond.

5. Write things down and follow up. Health care professionals work with hundreds of patients. While health care professionals keep notes in the patient’s file, the caregiver should write down notes, too. This will help keep appointments straight, follow-up information fresh and allow you to write down any questions or concerns you may have and want to discuss. If the caregiver can come to appointments prepared with questions or concerns, conversations are better, more personal and specific and lead to better outcomes for the patient.

Remember, you are the advocate for your loved one. It’s essential to have clear communication with health care professionals to ensure the best support, attention, and care is given to your loved one. These five tips are simple strategies to improve communication between caregivers and health care professionals.

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