My parents are going to endless doctor’s appointments. It seems like they have something scheduled every day. I’m worried they’re having unnecessary testing or procedures. I feel like they’re in good health, but It’s hard to keep track of all the different specialists they see. I’m not sure they need them all?
It is great that you are involved and watching out for your parents. Much of our health care system is very fragmented into different specialties. Without knowing their medical history, it is hard to say if they are all necessary, but a good place to start is with the primary care physician. This person can help determine which of the specialists are needed and provide insight on testing and procedures that are recommended. It is good to come up with a system to track the different providers and keep documentation of all appointments. I often recommend a three-ring binder with a tab for each provider. You can also create a section for medications, both prescribed and over the counter. If they are healthy, they may only see their primary care provider 1-2 times per year, so this binder would be great to take with them and discuss.
It is also important for your parents to realize that they have a choice in the care they want. Some things may be recommendations, but they certainly do not have to follow each and every one. They may need help sorting out what is essential and what is just recommended. They should know the side effects and risks involved as well as the potential benefits. This allows them to make more informed decisions.
Ideally preventative care can help them reduce issues they may be dealing with down the road. If they would like to have you involved in helping them make future healthcare decisions, it will also be important that they have listed you on HIPAA forms and put health care power of attorney documents in place, in the event they are unable to make these decisions. Your involvement with them now and open discussions will help provide you with the guidance you will need on their specific preferences and wishes.
It is also a good idea to keep tabs on medications. There are a couple of different systems (portals) medical providers use, but you can ask the pharmacist for a printout of all current medications and reconcile this to what’s being taken. Old medications should be discarded in an appropriate drop box. If there are medications on the list they no longer take, these should be removed. Sometimes things get added during a crisis or hospitalization that are meant to be temporary but end up on the ongoing list. Other times, something is prescribed, but never picked up. Cleaning this up once a year will prevent any confusion.
Lastly, as an adult child, it is important to remember that your parents’ wishes may be different from your own. You can certainly offer assistance or express concern, but ultimately it is important to make sure they are allowed to make decisions about their care that reflect their own choices. Together you all can successfully navigate the best possible care for them.