Being involved in your parent’s care:
When you as the adult child, find that it is time to become involved in your elderly parent’s health care, we have a few tips to offer that can help make it more comfortable and productive for everyone. Of course, some parents are more open to having their son or daughter talk to their physician than others. Many parents, as they grow older, want to retain their sense of autonomy, and do not necessarily want to have their adult children “in their business,” as they see it.
Experts tell us that if you (the adult child) show that you understand and acknowledge your parent’s perspective, and that you respect their need for privacy, they are likely to see that you are not trying to take control from them, or flip roles on them. You can say something like “We want you to keep your independence and make your own decisions, and we also really want to make sure you are getting the best possible health care. We really want to help if you need it.” It’s usually best to have just one family member designated as the one who will communicate with the doctor or nurse. Then that one can fill in the rest of the siblings about what is going on.
Ask your parent if they would be willing to sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (most people know it as HIPAA) form available at doctors’ offices and hospitals. This gives health care professionals permission to share medical information about your parents with you. It’s also a good idea to have a health care power of attorney form signed. This is to be used if your parent becomes unable to make decisions for himself or herself. Even when a parent resists signing a HIPAA form, you can still make your concerns known to their doctor, either on the phone or by email. Just know that the doctor won’t be able to discuss the parent’s care with you.
Of course, if there is a safety issue, or a matter of life and death, you have to do what you think best. It goes without saying that all families are different and each parent-child relationship is unique. Overall, the most important thing you can do is to make sure you are listening to your dad or mom, and understanding their needs and desires from their perspective.
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