“Have a seat and we’ll call your name soon.”
“Please fill out these forms to the best of your ability.”
“The doctor will see you now.”
Let’s face it; a doctor’s visit is not the ideal item on a Tuesday morning list of tasks. From the sterile smell in the air to the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the waiting room, the culture of medicine can be an intimidating place for many. Even more, a recent diagnosis can offer several unknown questions in a patient’s life.
When a caregiver or family member attends these appointments, one endures the unnerving feeling of what news they might hear for their loved one. Although anxiety mounts when you enter the room and speak with a doctor, it’s important that your voice is heard and that you’ve relayed your concerns.
Several barriers often get in the way of caregivers and family members asking questions at initial appointments. The length of visits has been a major hurdle that larger health care facilities are trying to address. The limited amount of time to check in about the patient’s health or go in-depth about the symptoms leaves little room for others to offer their insights. With more than one billion physician visits reported over the last year, time has been severely compromised for most medical professionals.
Lack of rapport with just one physician or specialist can also make caregivers uneasy to report their concerns or questions about an illness. I often hear family members of patients say, “I didn’t want to ask the wrong questions to someone I just met.” Even questioning one’s advice or clarifying a statement could challenge the power dynamic in the room.
There is still this notion of many that the doctor is the “all knowing” professional and that you shouldn’t challenge the authority of someone with an advanced degree. The fact is that most professionals want to hear what you’re going through and what feedback you can offer.
Having worked in close proximity with doctors and other medical professionals, I’ve seen the importance communication plays between the doctor, the patient and the caregiver. Communication should be a three-way process, where the caregiver can be seen as a team member in one’s medical treatment rather than an outsider.
The caregiver is often the bridge between the patient and the healthcare system. Furthermore, the caregiver has perspectives of the illness that the patient often never realizes. These details can help doctors and professionals fill in the critical gaps for the care of the patient.
The following questions can help new caregivers gather basic information from their doctors. This is not an inclusive list, and caregivers are encouraged to raise additional questions related to the specific diagnosis.
- What are the symptoms of this diagnosis?
- What is this person able to do and not able to do?
- What are the most helpful things I can do as a caregiver?
- How can I get more information on the medications they’re taking?
- What is the plan of treatment going forward?
- What options are available if the diagnosis gets worse?
- Can I have a copy of the records?
- How can I reach you if I have any further questions?
Look for Part Two in next month’s Newsletter.