Talking to a Healthcare Provider About a Loved One's Health

Jake Newby

| 3 min read

An adult woman consoles her father in a doctor's office.
It is heartbreaking to watch a loved one show signs of declining health. In some instances, it is best for family caregivers to take an active role in their parents’ or loved ones’ life to ensure they receive the care they need. 
Talking about a loved one’s health with a healthcare provider can be difficult, but it is a must for the sake of the individual’s future wellbeing. Here’s how family caregivers can navigate those conversations.

When is it time to talk to a loved one’s healthcare provider?

If a loved one is regularly visiting a healthcare provider but still complaining of pain or exhibiting memory problems at home, it is fair to wonder if they are accurately reporting symptoms to their primary care doctor.
Older adults may withhold information from doctors for several reasons. They may fear being diagnosed with a serious condition or fear a loss of independence that could come with an assisted living recommendation. They may also be embarrassed or have feelings of denial. Or they may genuinely forget about symptoms when meeting with their doctor if they are experiencing memory loss or are in the early stages of dementia.
Consistent signs of physical, mental, or behavioral changes in your loved ones could indicate that it’s time to reach out to their provider. Those signs could include:
  • Changes in physical function and appearance
  • Cognitive issues or memory loss
  • Lack of drive, motivation, or interest in hobbies they once enjoyed
  • Trouble performing daily living activities

Tips for talking to a healthcare provider about a loved one’s health

Be transparent: You should first identify your role as advocate and caregiver with your parent or loved one. Try to establish trust and let them know that you are there to support them, not to control their life. All you can do is explain that you have their best interests in mind. 
Get authorized: Before engaging in an in-depth conversation with your loved one’s provider, they need to give you proper authorization to be involved in their medical care. Caregivers need to provide three legal documents to healthcare providers: A HIPAA authorization form, a valid medical power of attorney document and Advance Care Directives. These forms should be copied and provided to each of your loved one’s physicians, if they visit multiple specialists. 
Bring a medication list and medical records: Compile a list of every prescription, over-the-counter medication, vitamin and supplement your loved one takes – including dosages and times – and either bring the list or the medications themselves to the appointment with their provider. This can help doctorsspot drug interactions, or any other issues multiple medications are causing.
Since older adults with multiple health issues often see several specialists in addition to their primary care doctor, bringing a comprehensive medical record – including condition and surgery history – to these appointments could help them make key decisions, if your parent or loved one hasn’t already provided these records.
Discuss, pay attention,and take notes: Share the concerning warning signs and behavior you haveobserved and jot down the doctor’sresponses and advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify.You should also discuss how you can followup with additional questions or communications.
Make observations of your loved one’s health: Once you’ve met with their provider a time or two, keep observations of your loved one’s health. Track times and dates of any instances of concerning behavior. This will help you share detailed information with their provider in the future.
Keep your loved one involved: Make sure your parent or loved one is in the loop anddoesn’t feel like you are talking to their provider behind their back. Doing this or taking over an appointment can build resentment between the two of you.Your loved one shouldstill be treated as an adult and participate in their own care as much as possible.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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