Know your loved one's health status and medical history.
Health is a private matter and your loved may choose whether or not to share medical information and documentation with you. This information will help you be able to plan ahead and budget for care, so you want to talk with your loved one early about this need. Ask for permission to have access to medical records and to be able to ask your loved one's physician about his or her health status. If you don't have permission, you won't be able to review medical documents.
Health conversations can be difficult, so ask questions, listen and be sensitive to your loved one's feelings. Look for natural opportunities to discuss health, such as when a health care provider:
- Mentions your loved one's treatment when you're present.
- Talks with you about your loved one's condition when he or she is undergoing a medical procedure.
- Discusses your loved one's medical bill when you are present.
- Tells you how to care for your loved one after a procedure, including how to administer prescription medication.
If your loved one does give you permission to access his or her health information, get the permission in writing - the best way is to sign a health care power of attorney or durable health care power. Often, health care providers also have documentation you can sign that they will keep on record to allow you to access your loved one's records at any time. Sometimes you have to sign these forms in front of a witness or notary, so arrange for that if it is required. It's also a good idea to sign extra copies or make notarized copies and keep them someplace safe.
- AARP how to talk effectively with health care providers:
- AARP how to have strong communication with medical staff:
Anytime your loved one sees a new health care provider, you'll want to complete the same documentation and also file your health care power of attorney or durable healthcare power with them.
As you go through this process, keep a list of your loved one's health care related information and contacts. This includes:
- Current providers
Make a document that tracks current provider names, specialty areas, office numbers, emergency numbers, hours of operation, locations and other information you may need.
- Health insurance
Keep a file with health insurance documentation and any letters, receipts or other notices you receive. Also keep a list of insurance contact numbers, descriptions of past conversations you've had with contact information for the agent you worked with and any other information you need in case something comes up.
- Prescription medication and other medicines
Make sure to review all the medication documentation and potential side effects for any existing or new prescription medications your loved one is taking. Also make sure you understand how often the patient needs to be monitored - blood tests, etc. - to safely remain on that medication. If the medication requires routine evaluation, schedule those doctor's appointments before you leave the office with the new prescription in hand.
- Family medical history
Since you're going through the effort of gathering medical information, it's a good idea to have a conversation about family medical history and make a list of anything that has come up. This will help you communicate with your loved one's health care providers and anticipate any unexpected medical needs.
- Potential providers
If you know a certain medical need is coming up or you know of a family history of a particular condition, research the available providers you would be interested in seeing and check to see if they are covered under the terms of your loved one's health insurance. Narrow your list down to a select few providers that you keep on hand in case anything comes up. If a medical need arises and you require a physician referral to a specialist, take that list with you to your next appointment.
As your loved one's health situation changes, you'll want to update this documentation and any legal documents. If you live far from your loved one, it may be good idea to name a few local contacts who know to reach you in the event of an emergency.