Health care providers that may be part of the health care team include nurses, personal support workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech language pathologists, dieticians, social workers, and more! Each health care provider will have specialized knowledge and responsibilities. This can result in many visits and/or appointments from several different specialty areas. It is important to consult with the person in your care before every appointment as appropriate. The person should be involved in all health care decisions and conversations. Keep reading for tips on preparing for appointments and advocating for the person in your care throughout the appointments. We have also provided some examples of questions that may be appropriate to ask when meeting with health care providers.
Before the Appointment
- Make a list of things that the person in your care would like to share with the health care provider(s). For example, when did the symptoms start? What makes them worse? What makes them better? How often are they experienced? It can be helpful to record symptoms on a calendar or in a journal as they happen because it can be difficult to recall this information.
- Write down questions so that you can refer to your written notes at appointments and record the answers. (Keep reading for some examples!)
- Be prepared to share the person’s health history many times. With the person in your care, create a record of diagnosed conditions/illnesses, surgeries, x-rays or other imaging (ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, etc.), and major health events including tests and treatments to share with each new health care provider if this information is requested. Where possible, include the dates for each piece of the health history.
- A list of medications that the person is currently taking should also be kept up to date. This list should include any prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, vitamins, supplements, and any herbal/naturopathic substances. It is also important to include any allergies or reactions the person has had to medications, medical supplies, or food.
- Remember to bring the person’s health card!
- If necessary, any equipment such as glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, dentures, a walker or cane, etc. should also be brought to the appointment. This is especially true if this is the reason for the appointment. For example, glasses and/or contact lenses should be brought to appointments with eye doctors such as optometrists and opthalmologists.
- Plan to arrive at the appointment early in order to leave extra time for things like traffic, public transportation delays, limited parking, etc.
- For home visits, ensure that you have a comfortable place to meet that will provide the appropriate level of privacy with minimal distractions.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada has a printable form which may be helpful for preparing for a doctor’s appointment.
Supporting and Advocating
- Discuss your level of involvement in the appointment with the person in your care prior to the appointment. How much does the person want to say themselves? Do they want you to advocate for them? Do they want this advocacy throughout the entire appointment or only in relation to certain matters?
- Make sure the person is positioned to be the center of the conversation. Encourage the person to highlight key emotional issues like what is important to them, what worries them most, and any other stresses.
- Ensure that the person receiving care understands, to the best of his or her abilities, the diagnosis and treatment. It is important that the person gives verbal or signed consent to the care plan or treatment. This should also be done when there are any changes made to the care plan. Having anadvance care plan is important.
- It's a good idea to take notes during appointments with health care providers in order to refer to them later and clarify important points that were discussed.
Examples of Questions for Health Care Providers
- Why does he/she need this test?
- What is the treatment/medication being given? Are there any side effects?
- What will happen during the treatment? What should the person expect? Are there any red flags/signs of a reaction to look for?
- When and where does the treatment take place?
- Where can the supplies or equipment be picked up or purchased?
- Have confusing words and terminology clearly explained so that you both understand them. If it will help, request information in writing.
- Ask about a reputable, quality resource (such as a website or information line) to gain more information about the test, condition/illness, and/or treatment.
Coordinating and managing appointments with multiple health care providers can be challenging. However, keeping detailed notes about each appointment can help both you and the person in your care in knowing who each member of the health care team is and what they are responsible for.