Communicating effectively with Healthcare Professionals - Carers

As well as taking on the household chores, shopping, transportation, and personal care, many family carers also administer medications, injections, and medical treatment.  Many carers report the need to ask for advice about the medications and medical treatments. The person they usually turn to is their GP. 

But while carers will discuss their loved one's care with the GP, they seldom talk about their own health, which is equally important. Building a partnership with a GP that addresses the health needs of the care recipient and the carer is crucial. The responsibility of this partnership ideally is shared between you, the caregiver, the GP and other healthcare staff. However, it will often fall to you to be assertive, using good, to ensure that everyone's needs are met - including your own.

As a carer you will have to meet many health care professionals.  It's important to have the relevant information and tips on how to get the best out of these appointments.

Know the health professionals looking after your family member. Write down their name, title, contact details and role.  Go with your family member to appointments where possible and with their consent.  If you have a large family, agree who will be the main contact person to communicate with the health professionals.

Prepare questions ahead of time. Make a list of your most important concerns and problems. Issues you might want to discuss with the GP or Consultant are changes in symptoms, medications or general health of the care recipient, your own comfort in your caregiving situation, or specific help you need to provide care. The GP or Consultant only sees a moment in time with the patient. Make sure you let them know what your concerns are in their daily care and health. 

Get help from the public health nurse. They can answer questions about tests and examinations, preparing for surgery, providing personal care and managing medications at home. 

Make sure your appointment meets your needs. The first appointment in the morning or straight after lunch may be the best option to reduce your waiting time or to get time to ask all of your questions. When you schedule your appointment, make sure you give the reasons for your visit so that you can be given enough time. Call to see if the doctor is on schedule. Remind the receptionist of any special needs when you arrive at the office. 

Take someone with you if you feel uncomfortable asking questions.  They can also write down important information about diagnosis or medications.  Ask your doctor for leaflets on supports available or information on your family member’s condition.

Use assertive communication and "I" messages. Say what you need, what your concerns are, and how the doctor or nurse can help.  For example, use clear statements like:

"I need to know more about the diagnosis
“I will feel better prepared for the future if I know what's in store for me."
"I am feeling rundown. I'd like to make an appointment for myself and my husband next week."
"I need a way for my father to sleep at night as I’m exhausted being up every two hours at night with him”