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How to Talk Effectively With Health Care Providers

Tips for caregivers to communicate effectively with health professionals

Article Highlights

  • Ask the right questions
  • Respect your loved ones
  • Use professionals to educate yourself

Communication difficulties between health care providers and older patients happen every day. As a caregiver, playing an active role in maintaining your loved one's health is essential. This means communicating effectively with doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals. Good communication boils down to three facts:


See also: Questions to Ask the Doctor.


Provide Detailed Information

A doctor needs accurate and detailed information about a patient to make proper diagnoses and prescribe safe and effective treatments. Because many older people see more than one physician, their medical records don't always contain all the facts a doctor needs.

Each doctor should know all about the patient's health, particularly recent hospitalizations. Provide details on drug allergies, chronic illnesses, relevant test results and medicines taken regularly, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and supplements. If you have trouble remembering these details, a written health history can refresh your memory.

Also tell the doctor if your loved one drinks alcohol, smokes or has trouble sleeping or driving. Mention previous side effects from medications or barriers to following a treatment plan, such as forgetting to take medicines or worrying about money.

Get a Second Opinion

Health professionals hold the medical expertise you need, but the service, attention and quality of care required don't always come automatically. Consider changing doctors if the current one doesn't listen or explain things well.

If the doctor proposes a treatment, ask why. Keep asking if you're not satisfied with the answers. Feel free to get a second opinion about a diagnosis or suggested treatment.

Be a Team Player

Just as you and your loved one deserve respect, so do the health professionals with whom you interact. No matter how frustrating a situation becomes, you're more likely to get what your loved one needs if you remain constructive, polite and involved.

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