---- — Question: My pare
nts live out of state, this makes it rather challenging to assist with some of their aging issues. My father is sharp as a tack and very cooperative. My mother was a very capable, efficient career woman. Since retirement she has lost a lot of confidence and assertiveness. She will call to tell me about a new medication or health problem but won’t remember anything in detail her doctor said. She seems to accept everything he tells her without further questions. Any suggestions?
Answer: You are at a distinct disadvantage due to location and therefore unable to encourage your mother to allow you to accompany her to medical appointments. If you were to observe first hand your mother’s demeanor while visiting her doctor or receiving other medical treatment it might give you a clearer picture as to what is happening.
Your mother may very well be happy with her doctor and receiving good medical care. The problem could be her view of medical professionals as authority figures and her inability to advocate for herself. She needs to be encouraged to speak up, ask questions and take an active role in her care and staying healthy.
A good relationship between a doctor and patient is a partnership, each assuming responsibility in the approach to good medical care. Your mother has a responsibility to inform her doctor of concerns, new symptoms, side effects of medications and any changes in health. She also needs to ask questions when she doesn’t understand something, otherwise the assumption will be there isn’t a problem. The doctor should take the time to listen, and clearly explain the causes and treatment of medical conditions. It takes cooperation on both individual’s part for this to be effective.
Encourage your mother to make a list of questions ahead of time and to write down what is discussed during the appointment. If notes are taken it gives the family an opportunity to do research or follow-up if additional questions arise. This is actually a good practice for all patients regardless of their age. Your mother should ask for any written information available. Often there will be manufacturers instructions for prescriptions or brochures about health conditions on hand at the doctor’s office. Becoming more educated may reduce unnecessary anxiety.
Speak with your mother about taking someone else with her to medical appointments. If she for one reason or another doesn’t want your father to accompany her is there another relative or good friend she would trust and feel comfortable with? Ask if she would give permission to the doctor’s office to release information and speak with you over the phone occasionally if you have concerns. We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. If you have a question direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley.