As our parents and loved ones get older, it takes a lot more time — and attention from a lot more people — to maintain their good health. Managing doctor appointments, refilling prescriptions and tracking insurance bills can be overwhelming for patients and caregivers. A trusted family member or friend can be an effective health care advocate. If you’re taking on such a role, or need to in the future, here are some things to keep in mind:
First, gently ask your parent whether he or she needs or wants your help communicating with the doctor. If your parent agrees, talk to each other about what questions to ask the doctor before the appointment — and write them down. During the visit, let your parent take the lead in talking to the doctor. If a question is overlooked or not answered, then follow up. Ask for an explanation of unclear terms or direction. Take notes or, if the doctor allows, record the conversation.
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
Prescription Safety Check
Some 1.5 million people are injured by medication errors each year in the U.S. Caregivers can stop a disaster before it happens by double-checking every new and refilled prescription.
- Have the pharmacist compare past records with the refill order. (If medications arrive by mail, compare the new bottle with the old one.) If there’s a discrepancy in dose, amount, strength or directions, call the doctor.
If the prescription is new or you are uncertain about the medication, do the following:
- Ask about side effects, adverse reactions, precautions and warnings.
- Check the brand name against the generic name.
- Ask if the pill can be crushed or split.
- Read all included information.
- When prepping pills at home, review instructions. It’s easy to misremember directions.
- Consider putting daily pills in a compartmentalized box so you, or anyone filling in for you, will know if the daily dose has been taken.
- Store medicine as directed.