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By William R. Leahy, M.D.
Communication with Medical
Communication with a care team is equally as important
as communication with your loved one and within your
family. Do not hesitate to take an active role in the
care of your loved one. You, as caregiver, must
understand what plan of care has been established. You
must be able to send clear and accurate messages about
the state of your loved one’s health. As a family
caregiver, you are often in the best position to observe
changes in symptoms, abilities and general health. The
more clearly these are conveyed to the doctor, nurse or
other professional caregivers, the better the care that
will be provided. Planning your communication in advance
and writing notes will help you get all necessary
information across and ensure that all of your questions
are answered. Be polite and focus on the information
that you need to send and receive, rather than any
frustrations you may have. While the experience of
visiting a doctor’s office may be frustrating, it is
more important to get the information you need than to
express your aggravation.
Observing and Reporting
As a family caregiver, you probably spend more hours
with you loved one than anyone else does. You are in an
excellent position to observe and report on his
condition, including any changes, occurrences or new
Any of the following should be reported immediately to
the doctor or agency. You may also need to call 9ll or
go to an emergency room for assistance for falls, chest
pain, severe headache, difficulty breathing, changes in
mental status such as confusion, sudden weakness, high
fever, loss of consciousness or bleeding.
Less urgent conditions should also be reported--loss of
appetite, rash, difficulty sleeping, pain, weakness or
fatigue, nausea, depression or withdrawal.
You should not try to diagnose the problem nor should
you try to decide if a complaint is important or
trivial. When in doubt, report it.