Editor's Note: BubbleLife contributor Elizabeth Tamlyn writes "Ham and Cheese," an email newsletter offering encouragement, direction and advice regarding the care of an elderly parent. Look for her monthly column on BubbleLife.
When caring for your parent, you're probably finding there seems to be an increasing number of doctor's appointments as time goes on. You are also probably thinking of all the other things you have to do in life! Nowadays, there are many specialists, and each handles a different system of the body! It can be challenging to get a loved one to all the places and appointments that need to happen.
Although it may not seem that important to go sometimes, going with your mom or dad to a doctor appointment can prove to be significant! You definitely want to delegate some, merge appointments together when possible, and encourage them to be independent as long as possible, but sometimes when you are witnessing changes in their health or behavior, you may need to be the interpreter to what is said by the medical staff to your aging parent.
My sisters and I can now laugh at a particular appointment where the internist carefully explained to my dad how his blood sugar was elevated and that his body did not make enough insulin to carry the nutrients into the cell. At his age and based on the data, the doctor suggested an oral medication that would help his body produce the much needed insulin to assist the nutrients to cross into the cells where they needed to be and keep his blood sugar levels consistent. The doctor was very patient with his explanation and asked our dad if he had questions about this new information and changing health status. Of course, Dad said no, and that, yes, he understood; he then left the doctor’s office. We were thankful that Dad was taking this news so well, knowing that for many elderly, this news about blood sugar levels and new medications can be scary. When getting in the car, with great relief and excitement, dad shared with my sister, “Well, at least I’m not diabetic!” Unfortunately, that is exactly what the doctor was telling him! Thankfully, my sister was with him to listen, interpret and gently re-explain!
It seems as though sometimes, just to be pleasant or perhaps because of feeling intimidated, an aging person may not ask questions or completely understand the information the doctor tells them. When you think you could be wasting your time at another appointment, think again. You may be the glue that holds your parent’s health together. You know them better than anyone else, and you may be key to transferring important information back and forth between them and the medical experts.
You can be bold in respectfully making sure that first you understand what the doctor’s plan is, and then ensuring that you transfer the information so that your parent understands also. Caring for your parent is important, even if the world doesn’t always hold it in high regard. Be their advocate and enjoy them in this season of life!