More and more healthcare providers and insurers are spending more time focusing on the patient and their family caregivers. Here’s how you can use this shift to get more from the healthcare system for your aging parent.
Tip #1: Use Email and Apps
Realizing caregivers’ reliance on mobile apps and digital communications, “health systems have responded with patient portals for electronic communication and record review,” says Andrew Duxbury, professor of the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
“Most boomers and younger who are used to email are now using it more and more to communicate and coordinate with physicians and other health care providers for the elders in their families.” Use these cloud-based options to schedule appointments, check test results, request prescription refills, and communicate with the care team.
Action Step: Complete a HIPAA release form to enable the care team to speak with you about your parent’s condition.
Tip #2: Share Your Knowledge
“Make a list of all the things you see going on with parent — everything that concerns you — and share that with the doctor,” advises Richard M. Dupee, clinical professor of medicine at the Tufts University School of Medicine and chief of the Geriatrics Service at Tufts Medical Center. “This helps the doctor to focus on kinds of issues that make a difference in quality of life for your parent, not just cholesterol and blood pressure.”
Action Step: If you accompany your parent, ask for additional time when you make the appointment. Otherwise, arrange to email your thoughts and discuss via phone.
Tip #3: Integrate Technology
From wearables that track activity and vital signs to interactive systems that transmit critical data to healthcare providers and send reminders to seniors, patient-focused technology helps your parent remain more independent. Many connected healthcare devices are covered by insurance or eligible for tax deductions.
Action Step: Investigate technology like personal medical response systems, medication dispensing systems and other options.
Tip #4: Request a Second Opinion
It may feel disrespectful, but another viewpoint is especially important when you don’t get a straightforward diagnosis or when it has a big impact on your parent’s quality of life. You can also ask for second opinion when a treatment is experimental, “off-label,” or risky. Don’t worry that the physician will take this personally, Dupee counsels: “Good internists will say ‘of course.’”
Tip #5: Negotiate Costs
It might surprise you that costs for medical procedures vary widely from facility to facility and state to state. Negotiating — even if your parent has terrific insurance — can help reduce co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses.
These ideas could help you take advantage of new opportunities for managing healthcare for aging parents.