Advice and explanations about dementia testing, diagnosis, medical practitioners and medications.

How To Communicate Effectively With Your Loved One’s Doctor

How To Communicate Effectively With Your Loved One’s Doctor


If you have aging relatives, you are most likely concerned about their physical, emotional and cognitive health.

As your parents and other loved ones get older, they will have medical appointment after medical appointment with a variety of professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, etc.  Your loved ones may have difficulty remembering the details of each of these appointments, as one specialist blends into another. Or, due to memory problems your loved ones may not report accurately the details of any health or cognitive concerns they have.

In some family relationships, parents do not want their children to have knowledge of their own health situation or they feel uncomfortable including their children and reversing their role from caregiver to care receiver.  This does not stop adult children from worrying!  In fact, it makes it more difficult to support aging relatives in their needs when family members are blocked from the process.

Here are a few tips to help you communicate effectively with your loved one’s doctor:

  1. Buy a journal or make an excel spreadsheet that records all of the names, addresses, phone numbers and area of specialties of each health care professional with whom they have contact.
  2. Include the diagnosis or problem treated by each of these health care professionals, as well as the medication prescribed (dose, times of day, etc.).
  3. Document the emergency procedure to contact these professionals in a time of crisis as well as their normal office/clinic hours.
  4. Encourage your parent to sign an Authorization with each professional so you have the legal authority to exchange information.
  5. Ask your parent to bring a list of questions and concerns to each appointment and to document the answers. Include your questions on this list or prepare it in advance and give it to your loved one to bring to the appointment.
  6. Document the pharmacy name and location for each medication prescribed so you can discuss any medication concerns or interactions with the pharmacist. Make sure your parent signs an Authorization at each pharmacy.
  7. Make a list of all medical diagnosis, medications, surgical history, current treatment regimes, and treating physicians and ask your parent to keep this list in their wallet or purse in the case of an emergency. Place a copy of this form on the refrigerator and near each phone in their home.
  8. Encourage your parent to draft a Continuing/Durable Power of Attorney and/or Living Will so they will be ensured you can act on their behalf if necessary.
  9. If your loved one has memory problems, it is important for you to keep track of the dates and times of the appointments in order to remind him or her of the appointment.
  10. If your loved one will not allow you to attend medical appointments and he or she will not share information with you but you have concerns about significant health and safety issues, write an email or letter to the doctor. In this way, you are not asking for the doctor to break your loved one’s confidentiality. You are only offering details for which the doctor to follow-up.

The above information is the basic information needed to assist your parents or an aging relative with their health functioning.  It is equally important to organize all of their personal and financial affairs to ensure that you can provide comprehensive support in all aspects of their life when the time approaches.

Use the worksheet package at to assist you in preparing and documenting each interaction and communication with a health care professionals.

About the author

Stephanie Erickson

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