Caregiving comes in many shapes and forms. There are family caregivers of aging parents, spouses and children with chronic illness or disease, and many care for someone with a disability. The one thing we have in common is the shock that happened the day we found out we were suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver.
In my book, Walking the Journey Together … Alone I talk about feeling like I had a suit of armour suddenly cover me to protect my brain, and my heart. The devastating news of my husband’s cancer diagnosis took hours to process. I heard the words. I said them over and over in my mind. Yet, it was only when the armour loosened its grip that the seriousness of the situation would sink in.
I’ve heard professionals say that often the patient only hears about 30 % of what is said when first told they have cancer and at the next few appointments when discussing treatment options. Your role as a caregiver is vitally important in helping your loved one, and you, get the most out of the doctor visits. During the six years I cared for Callum I found a few things that really helped me become more effective and efficient at making the best use of our time with the doctor and nurse.
1) Research: Spend some time finding out as much as possible about the illness/disease/disability of your loved one. Be sure to use only credible websites. Sometimes you will learn about new drugs and treatments and can be ready to ask the doctor where they fit into the treatment plan of your loved one. Be careful – this can be a double edged sword. Beware of spending too much time browsing the internet for things that don’t matter or aren’t true. I found most doctors willing to discuss the research as long as they weren’t being second-guessed.
2) Sometimes I would have questions that Callum didn’t think of, and some of them he wouldn’t initially approve. What I found worked really well is when I made a list of my questions, and discussed them with Callum a day or two before the appointment. He didn’t like being caught by surprise in a doctor’s appointment when I’d ask questions he didn’t know I’d ask. What usually happened is that he ended up asking many of the questions on his own.
3) When we would have a list of questions that I think the nurse or doctor might need to review before we met, I would type them up, print them and give a copy to the nurse when we met with her before the doctor came into the exam room. It would give them some time to check into things like test results, rescheduling chemotherapy so we could take a holiday, etc.
4) Write down as much as you can about what the doctor says to your loved one. If they are talking to you because you are caring for a child, have someone else with you to take notes. This is not a time to try multi-tasking. More then once my nearly verbatim notes settled arguments between Callum and I.
There is a lot to process when you find out a loved one is seriously ill or disabled. Your brain will protect you and it’s important to know that you might not fully hear or comprehend all that is said in a doctor appointment. The best thing you can do is be prepared. It will help your concentration and build a better relationship with the person for whom you are caring. In the long run, it decreases your stress and might even save you some time.
Lorna M. Scott is the author of the best selling book, Walking the Journey Together…Alone. Find more tips in the book Click here to order the book