10 Ways Physicians Can Help Family Caregivers


10 Ways Physicians Can Help Family Caregivers

doctor-73117_640(1)Sometimes, it's the family and friends you think will help that don't. And, sometimes it's the physician.

In our 2014 Annual Family Caregiver Survey, only 13% of respondents said that a physician has been most helpful to them. Given how often you interact with your caree's physician, that's just awful.

I thought it would be helpful to offer suggestions for how physicians can help you. After all, you are your caree's primary health care provider.

1. Tell the truth.
I couldn't say it any better than these two respondents from this year's annual family caregiver survey did:

"Give it to them straight. Let them know the worst and best of situation from the beginning. No false hopes or maybes."

"Be real. Don't beat about the bush. Be direct. It saves so much time and angst."

2. Minimize the wait.
Many family caregivers have left work to attend a doctor's appointment with their caree. Many carees can't manage a long wait. Whatever you can do to minimize the wait would be great. We understand how important your time is. It's as important as the time of those waiting outside your door.

3. Maximize the wait.
If the wait has to happen, make it beneficial for the family caregiver and caree. Add Internet access, make educational materials available and offer activities appropriate for all carees, regardless of age and disability. Have gadgets, devices and medical equipment for us to try and practice with. Play soothing music, keep water and coffee within reach. Stock supplies that we may need (gloves, masks, incontinence supplies) and then let us know you have them. If you can, have a separate waiting room for anyone who may be contagious with a cold or the flu.

4. Appreciate our bottom line as we much as we do yours.
We totally understand you run a business. We run one, too--it's the business of caring for a family member. Learn what family caregivers need--support, referrals to community services, helpful information--to keep the business running as smoothly as possible. We are your customers.

5. Understand what we need.
Ask us questions to understand what's our current pressing problem and our current worry about tomorrow, whenever that tomorrow will be. Sometimes, we need a referral to home health care or a durable medical equipment provider. Sometimes, we need more information about a disease process. All the time, we just need to know we're doing all the right things to keep our caree as well as possible.

6. Help us find what we need.
This health care system is confusing and disconnected. Help us navigate to get the help our carees need. In order for you to help us navigate effectively, know about community resources that can help. Don't have the time to do this yourself? Ask your office staff to research providers and services and share them with us.

7. Be our best advocate in the hospital and other health care settings.
We know our caree's best. You know how to help us get the best care. When we're running into the brick wall that red tape creates, please step in and help us. When we have concerns about quality of care, please listen to us and then help us get the best care possible.

8. Listen to our feedback.
We understand what works and what doesn't--in our caregiving situation and in your office procedures. Keep an open mind when we share feedback. We know how to make the day more efficient for you and for ourselves.

9. Have an organized, efficient process for us to enter and exit your office and for us to get our prescriptions, therapies and equipment promptly.
Your time is money and so is ours. Make sure it's easy for us to enter your building and your office with a wheelchair and an armful of our information and supplies. Have an extra wheelchair, in good working condition, in case we need one.

We don't want to waste the time of your office staff with repeated calls to check on status of prescriptions and orders. An efficient system that gets us what we need save us both time.

10. Connect us with other family caregivers.
The best resource for a family caregiver is another family caregiver. Chances are, you've encountered many family caregivers who would be wonderful mentors for others new to the caregiving experience. Ask the experienced family caregivers if they're interested in helping those new to the experience and the diagnosis. Then, connect them.

What would you add to the list?

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