Medical care is invariable part and parcel of a caregiver’s life. And what a strange world is modern healthcare, right? You want to do right by the person you are caring for by making sure they are receiving appropriate care from their doctors and hospitals but you feel unqualified because your medical background is limited or nonexistent. Not to worry. You can handle this.
Healthcare Boot Camp: Get Your Legalities Together
Let’s start with some basics. First, you have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Decisions, right? If not, get one. This little piece of paper allows you to legally make healthcare decisions on behalf of the person for whom you are caring.
If you are also handling your loved one’s business matters, then make sure you obtain a Durable Power of Attorney for that also. The two are not interchangeable, so make sure you have the correct form.
Once you have all of your paperwork lined up, make plenty of copies and share them freely with doctor’s office, clinics, and hospitals as you attend visits. All of these entities need the documentation yet few share with each other. And with such documentation on file, it makes crisis management a lot more manageable because healthcare workers will be allowed to share information with you. Confidentiality is really big in healthcare and you have to have this signed document or you get no information or say in the care of a loved one.
Time To Study Up
Doctors know a lot about a lot of things but they are rarely the ultimate expert in a given condition. That is why we ask a number of questions when a patient is under our care. Human physiology by definition, has the infinite capacity to present unique symptoms that are not in a medical textbook. Patients’ bodies in fact, do this so often that you and your loved one bring a certain expertise to diagnosis because you are living with the circumstances. No one else knows what your loved one feels and you are such an invaluable source of information because of what you observe in the course of daily care. Between the two of you, the information you share helps guide the medical professionals in their decisions.
So besides the subjective knowledge of a condition, you also have some homework to do. Understanding the characteristics of the patient’s conditions and treatments is important, so find some reliable sources of information. Ask questions of the doctors, nurses, and pharmacists whenever you have the chance. Now is not a time to be shy. If you don’t understand the answer, ask for clarification.
Your need to know is very important.
While I mention this with a sense of caution, read up about conditions and treatments on the Internet. Yes there is a lot of flaky stuff out there, just keep you your critical thinking cap on. If the site is trying to sell something related to what you are reading, it is probably not a great source of reliable information.
When critically reviewing information, remember that each discipline has its own unique perspective. Like the old joke about when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. You will find some bias’. So when you consult an allopathic medicine (western medicine) website, treatment solutions generally fall under the headings of drugs or surgery. Chiropractic or Naturopathic sites present conservative, holistic treatment ideas. No one group has all of the answers, so stay open and exercise your curiosity about different options that may be available.
If you find ideas that you think might help, take your them and any evidence to your treating physician for evaluation. Many treatments can complement each other and help to improve the patient’s quality of life. Just make sure to include the physician so that he/she know what is going on. Some herbal substances can adversely effect certain medications.
The Dreaded Paperwork Monster
Keep in mind, modern healthcare is a highly technical industry with its own language and culture. The tough reality is that healthcare is setup to serve the business of healthcare, not the needs of the patient. It is called Managed Care for a reason.
So instead of fleeing the deluge of gibberish covered paperwork that healthcare manages to produce, buckle down and start learning their language. Learn what all the coding is about.
The investment in a medical dictionary can be a big help.
All of the billing brouhaha is built around assigning number codes to medical diagnosis and procedures. The numbers probably won’t mean much to you but the medical information will be golden. It will let you know just what is going on with the medical care of your loved one.
Just as a heads up, there is also a very strange ping pong match of paperwork and billings go from one entity to another. With a few well placed phone calls along the way, you will become expert in which ones you need to respond to and which ones to ignore.
We all learn by doing.
There is plenty to learn in handling healthcare affairs, some of it frustrating, but the whole process is entirely doable. Accepting that you are not stupid and you just have a lot to learn, will help keep the whole thing in perspective.
Remember, one day you will be the expert helping the rookie with their own hands full of caregiving. It is always about giving.
The sweetest joy, the wildest woe is love. What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork.
– Pearl Bailey