Diving in Head First: Part III
Welcome to PBJ! The Diving in Head First series reaches individuals who want to plan and better understand what they need to do and know for an aging parent. Sometimes the role of caregiver is gradual as you help a parent manage their health a bit more each passing year. Other times the role reversal is more sudden and comes as a call from a health care facility who will not discharge a parent home for safety reasons. Part I covered medical appointments and Part II spoke at length about medication management. Diving in Head First: Part III looks at the overall picture of your parent's health to determine how well they can answer two questions:
- How confident are you that you can control and manage most of your health problems?
- How understandable and useful is the information your doctors or nurses have given you about your health problems or concerns?
If you find your parent scoring less than seven on either question, what do you do? You ask more questions! The first question is seeing what your parent needs to move their score higher. I say to clients, "What would it take for you to move your score from a 5 to 8 around your heart failure?" The conversations I have with individuals prove this is a useful yet time-consuming activity. You will learn how your parent is dealing with the impact of a diagnosis on their life and what your parent values regarding their health.
Some parents may score their confidence higher than you think they should. A parent will tell you they manage their health just fine yet fill you with worry when they say "I can no longer walk to the bathroom without the feeling I am running out of breath." Another sign is a parent who is visiting the emergency room more and more.
When these situations arise, this is where Health Planner is a solution to help families sort through lists of doctors, medications, and diagnoses to help improve your and your parent's confidence in managing their health problems from home. This is possible for anyone to tackle with a little time and patience. Going through the steps described in Part I and Part II of this series, you now possess knowledge about the doctors your parent sees and the reasons for their medications. When your parent describes their shortness of breath walking to the bathroom, you will have the knowledge to connect the symptom to one of their doctors.
In the example of "running out of breath," you would know they see Dr. Bronch, the pulmonologist, for their COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). You may have even Googled "pulmonologist" to learn this doctor would be concerned with your parent's breathing. The tricky part comes when your parent is facing multiple health issues. Managing multiple diseases often leads to seeing many doctors. My advice to families is call when concerned, but realize you may need to make a few more phone calls until you learn who the right doctor is for managing a particular symptom.
When you make the call, here is the information to leave the office:
- Who does your parent see at the office? My parent is a patient of Dr. Bronch.
- When was the last time your parent saw this doctor? He/she last saw Dr. Broch five months ago.
- Simply state, what is your main concern? I have grown more concern about my parent's shortness of breath walking from the bed to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Is this concern new or old, and if old, what caused you to call? This is a new symptom for my parent OR This is a usual symptom for my parent, but I have noticed my parent taking longer and longer to recover their shortness of breath.
- Have you reached out to any other doctors before this one? I have spoken to Dr. Valve about my parent's heart, and they wanted me to talk to you first.
- Any suggestions you have as to a cause or a possible solution? My parent mentioned not being able to find their inhaler OR The last time this happened I know you added a medicine OR The last time my parent felt this terrible, he/she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.
Communicating in such a way provides your parent's doctor with the necessary information to 1) schedule an appointment 2) call in additional medicine 3) have a nurse call with follow-up questions or education, or 4) suggest a visit to the emergency room if warranted.
A challenging piece for caregivers without health care experience is knowing how to connect symptoms to health issues to increase their and their parent's health confidence. The more questions you ask and the more you communicate with your parent's doctors, you will increase your knowledge and confidence. If you are having a hard time piecing together your parent's current list of health issues, I highly suggest obtaining permission to set-up their MyMedicare.gov account or account via their Medicare Advantage plan. Here you will likely discover an iBlueButton tool that will translate claims into a list of recent diagnoses doctors have filed with your parent's Medicare plan. Doctors submitting claims to bill insurance must provide codes as to why your parent visited their office. These claims are clues to start educating yourself on their health history and current health issues. More information at the end of Diving in Head First: Part I explains this further.
Congratulations! You are taking the right steps to increase your knowledge to better coordinate your parent's care to keep them safe and healthy at home.
Please check back next week for Diving in Head First: Part IV where I will tackle end-of-life wishes.
Health Planner wants to hear your family's story! Please reach out to tell us confidentially via our contact page or call us at (317) 572-9011. We want to hear how you handle coordinating the care of your parent. With your permission, PBJ could feature your story or question on future publications! You can also leave questions & comments on publications to give your insights and experiences. The more we all talk about what it is like to age in the American health system the quicker we can identify the needs and solutions.
Disclaimer: All content provided on PBJ is out of the experiences and knowledge of one individual. Your situation may require further expert guidance. Always consult a licensed professional regarding health and legal matters. In reading, you agree no medical or health-related decisions will be based solely on information contained on PBJ. The website may update posts without specific notice to you. Links to other sites provide convenience to the reader. Resources listed and linked are in no affiliation with Health Planner unless noted. Each post and comment section are open to the public for viewing and comment. If there is a need to share private health information, please contact us via the Contact form or call Health Planner at (317) 572-9011.