Sometimes, just the sight of that white lab coat can get your nerves jumping. Many people get intimidated around medical professionals.   

Prepping as a caregiver

As the family caregiver, however, you know more about your loved one’s day-to-day care needs than anyone else. That makes you an indispensable member of the care team.

Family caregivers play a crucial role in care because they are the one constant in the patient’s life. Whether in the doctor’s office or at home, in the hospital or at the pharmacy, family caregivers are the only people who are present with their loved ones across all care settings. Family caregivers are there as full partners with their loved ones through it all.

With family caregivers playing such a primary role in their loved one’s care, it’s important to be prepared. One way to be prepared is by planning and asking questions and making the most of medical appointments.

Before your visit

You probably accompany your loved one to many, if not all, doctor’s appointments. You and your care recipient need to work together to ensure that you both understand the recommended medical course of action. This is an especially important role if your care recipient is cognitively impaired from a brain injury.

These guidelines can help you make the most of your loved one’s medical appointments.

Create a patient file. Be sure to include all medications, allergies, doctors’ contacts, insurance information, legal documents, living will, etc. Also keep an updated medication list that includes all prescription medicines, and who prescribed them, as well as any over-the-counter medications. Many patients with brain or spinal cord injuries take multiple medications.

'“Family caregivers play a crucial role in care because they are the one constant in the patient’s life.”'

Next, write down all questions and concerns you want to ask the doctor so you don’t forget them. This will help you state them clearly. Identify current symptoms. Your view of symptoms may be different from the patient’s. Your observations are important additional information.

During the visit

Clearly report all of your loved one’s symptoms — don’t try to diagnose the problem. Do ask your questions. Don’t worry about what the doctor might think of your question – just ask. And be sure to record the doctor's answers and instructions.

Also review the updated medication list. Are each of the medications still necessary? Did you ask the doctor what new symptoms or side effects you should be watching out for? If you don’t know how to lift and transfer your loved one with a brain or spinal cord injury without injuring yourself, ask for training immediately. Before you leave, verify what the next steps of follow-up will be.

After the visit

Once you’ve settled, allot more personal time and begin by reviewing your notes. Double check all the prescriptions. Then discuss the visit with your loved one to see if you heard the same things or different things from the doctor. Is your calendar updated based on the visit? If you are waiting for test results, don’t wait — take the initiative and get started on phone calls while the information is fresh.