When your elderly loved one is having a medical problem, you want to get them in to see the doctor as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, nationwide studies have shown that patients wait an average of about 21 days for an appointment, from the time they contact their doctor's office to schedule. When you're a caregiver dealing with an elderly person who has multiple health problems, this is simply too long.
Marion Somers, Ph.D., a geriatric care manager and author of the book, Eldercare Made Easier, offers five tips to help get your elderly loved one an appointment sooner:
- Be friendly. A helpful piece of everyday advice, it's especially important for a caregiver to develop a good rapport with a senior's doctor and the office staff. Knowing the names of the nurses and receptionists, and making sure they know who you are is a simple gesture that could go a long way towards making them more inclined to help you with future issues, such as making timely appointments.
- Make it official. One of the first things every caregiver should do, regardless of whether the senior has an immediate health need or not, is to get themselves designated as their loved one's primary caregiver. Somers says that being the official caregiver will allow you to, "have the best opportunity to succeed in your vital role as a caregiver and to make sure that you have access to all the records necessary." This is different from being granted a formal Power of Attorney (POA), and can save a lot of time and hassle when a pressing health issue does eventually crop up.
- Speak up. Don't be afraid to be persistent when it comes to the health of your elderly loved one. If you feel they need an appointment sooner, firmly and politely inform whoever is handling the doctor's scheduling that the elder's medical issue is urgent. As a caregiver, you are the primary advocate for the senior you're caring for. If scheduling timely appointments with a particular doctor is consistently difficult, Somers suggests making the switch to another clinician.
- Communicate. Make sure to keep up a steady stream of communication with a senior's doctor. This doesn't mean that you need to call and update him or her about every little change in your loved one's health or behavior. However, if there is information you think might be relevant to an upcoming health evaluation, Somers recommends sending it the office, via fax or e-mail, prior to the appointment. She says that caregivers should also bring their own copies of anything they send so they can reference them during the visit.
- Don't wait. If you notice a concerning change in you elderly loved one's health or behavior, don't hesitate to call their doctor right away. Somers says, "Anything out of the ordinary should be brought to the doctor's attention." It might also be a good idea to jot down a few of your observations to help the doctor identify relevant patterns.