A Caregiver's Guide to Navagating the Healthcare System
When you or I take on the care of a loved one, we can expect to learn all kinds of new skills and tasks. One of these will be to manage the medical appointments, bills and needs of a loved one suffering from a disorder or a disease. Many diseases that require a person to require care also render them unable to remember important details or do simple tasks by themselves. Therefore all these tasks will fall to us as the caregiver. But navigating the complicated medical system can be confusing, and we may need some basic help to better understand the process.
Before A Hospital Stay
If the loved one we are caring for is ill, there is a good possibility that there will be hospital stays involved in the process. Part of dealing with the hospital in the best way is making sure that we are prepared for the stay. Doing the things listed below will help to ensure that a hospital stay is seamless and smooth for both caretaker and loved one.
- Finalize rides to and from the hospital.
- Find someone to constantly be with the loved one in the hospital.
- Plan sleeping arrangements for the caregiver.
- Reserve hotels if you live far from the hospital.
- Finalize details at home such as pet care and bill paying.
- Have a base for contact information of other family and friends.
The more prepared we are to deal with these situations, the better the hospital stay will go. No patient loves to be in the hospital, but being prepared helps to lessen some of the anxiety our loved ones will feel.
When we care for loved ones who are ill, there are lots of doctor visits involved. And as the caregiver, we are responsible for transportation to and from the visit, and for remembering any pertinent information that is given at the appointment. One way to alleviate the chaos that can come from a large amount of information is to create a personal health record for our loved ones. A personal health record is a file that contains all the medical information need for the sick individual. Make it readily accessible to all medical professionals who are in charge of the patient. Include the following in the personal health record:
- Health history
- Medication allergies
- Any diagnosis or symptoms
- Previous appointment notes
- Any other pertinent information
Make sure that the patient signs a release to give you access to all their medical information before you create a personal health record, and make sure to bring it to each and every appointment. This is especially important when our loved ones see several different doctors in several different facilities. Keeping up on all the information is essential to the health of our loved ones.
After The Doctor
Once our loved ones are done with their appointments, and it’s time to take them home and get them settled, we may lose focus of all the information we were given at the appointment. It’s important to make the most of the doctor visit and to be prepared to record all the information we learn. Consider asking some of the following questions during the visit:
- Do I have the necessary refills for medication?
- When can I contact the doctor, and what are the clinic’s hours?
- Who should I call for an emergency?
- What should I do if there are side effects from the medication?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the doctor. It’s important that we take the time necessary to feel comfortable with all the steps we have to take to keep our loved ones healthy.
When we visit the doctor, it’s also important to make sure that we are not wasting the time of the doctor and his staff. If we can come prepared with a list of questions that we are concerned about, we are better able to optimize the time we spend with the doctor and his medical staff.
Ask For Help
It’s important as we take on these new tasks that we not let the medical system overwhelm us. Within the system there are caring individuals who are willing to help us with any questions we may have, and oftentimes finding them is just a matter of asking the right person. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and to be inquisitive; the health of our loved ones could very well depend on the information we receive.