One of the key job descriptions for caregivers is being a health advocate – and this is particularly true for those responsible for elderly people with dementia. Much like when we care for young children who are not able to properly communicate where they are feeling pain and why, the job of somebody caring for the elderly (especially someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s) requires a lot more than just feeding and grooming the person. It requires us to be very perceptive and report our findings to doctors and other medical professionals to ensure that proper care is provided.
Medical appointments are the perfect opportunity for caregivers to advocate for the elderly. At medical appointments caregivers can share valuable information we observe daily with doctors and other medical professionals, who in turn will rely on the information we provide to create a medical plan for the person.
Below are some tips from Providence Care learned from years of caring for the elderly and accompanying elders with dementia to medical visits:
— Be Prepared – doctor’s instructions will depend on what you report. If you say everything is fine, expect the doctor to continue with status quo. Even a small change in behavior can be the result of a medical condition that requires attention so it is best to keep a daily diary of observations and review it before the appointment to see if there have been changes to report.
— Always Bring Medication list – most people with dementia take a series of medications. It is important to bring the entire list, including dosages, to each medical appointment. This will allow the doctors to determine if any behaviors can be improved by changing medications. In addition, it will ensure that conflicting drugs are not being prescribed by various doctors.
— Consider Time of Appointment – Most people with dementia function better at a certain time of day. Try to find a time when your loved one is likely to feel best and also when the doctor’s office is likely to not be crowded to avoid any unnecessary frustrations.
— Bring Supplies and Entertainment – Lets face it, you may end up having to wait a lot longer than you would like. So bring any incontinence supplies you may need as well as snacks, beverages and perhaps small activities your loved one enjoys.
— Arrange Appropriate Transportation – This will depend on your loved ones physical condition, but if your car is not suitable to transport them, there are lots of specialized transportation services that can provide safe transportation to the appointment.
If your loved one has a professional caregiver or resides in an assisted living community such as Providence Care, you can ask them to accompany your loved one to the doctor’s appointment and advocate for them while there.
And remember, your gut feeling is usually the correct one. If you feel that you are getting bad advice or not enough attention is being paid to your concerns about your loved one, escalate them. That is part of being a health advocate for somebody who can not speak for themselves.