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Blog Feature

By: Marissa Salvesen on June 26th, 2014

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Accompanying Your Loved One to Medical Appointments: How, When and Why

assisted living | Aging & Caregiving

doctors-visitsAccording to a study published in the Journal of Family Practice, a third of physician visits involve the presence of at least one family member during the exam. While families play a critical role in positive health outcomes, deciding when to accompany your aging loved one to doctor's appointments can be a complicated issue.

Read on to learn about how and when to make this transition.

Making the Call

While a caregiver's presence can be extremely beneficial in terms of providing increased support during a visit with the doctor, it can also interfere with an older adult’s sense of independence. Ultimately, the decision regarding your level of participation lies with the patient. It can be helpful to offer your partnership -- instead of your control. This approach fosters the relationships between the patient, caregiver and healthcare provider.

You might also suggest a trial period during which your aging loved one may realize that your presence provides critical support and enhanced communication -- an essential component of effective doctor-patient relationships. This also gives you insight into determining whether your presence is necessary.

In some cases, seniors are disadvantaged by the lack of a caregiver during medical appointments. For example, seniors with hearing impairments may be unable to communicate adequately -- particularly if they can't hear comments and instructions. In this case, your presence may be more important.

Beyond the Exam Room

While your primary goal as a caregiver may be to attend the exam itself, keep in mind that there are other ways in which your presence can be beneficial. From providing transportation to filling out new patient forms and navigating office halls, you can help with details that ease any stress associated with the visit. You can also offer companionship during time spent in the waiting room or during triage.

During the Exam

While your presence can be helpful, it is important to respect your loved one's boundaries during exams. Encourage your loved one to ask questions and express concerns in order to remain active participants in their own care. Remember that you are present as an accessory: the most effective communication happens when the patient remains the focus of the exam.

As families grow and change, roles and responsibilities change along with them. While knowing when to begin accompanying your aging loved one to healthcare appointments can be difficult, your participation in the process can be a beneficial part to their care. However, the decision does not ultimately rest with you, but with your loved one. Keeping the lines of communication open can help your loved one make the best decision regarding when it's time for you to become a more active part of the process.

Key Takeaways:

  • While knowing when to attend your loved one’s medical appointments can be challenging, it can also be a critical part of the healthcare process.
  • Many patients are eager to have a caregiver present during appointments, but others worry about losing their independence.
  • Attending a medical appointment with your loved one isn’t just about being in the exam room, but also offers the chance to provide logistical and emotional assistance.
  • While the decision ultimately lies with the patient, you can help them realize the benefits by expressing your concerns and listening to theirs.

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About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

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