February 9, 2012 @ 8:24 AM

For adult children of aging parents, caregiving is often a role they do not feel ready to play. Being our parents' children has certain built-in dynamics, which is why bringing a doctor or another professional into the conversation can be so helpful.

 Here are some tips for opening and improving the lines of communication with a parent's medical team.

 Do the Legal Paperwork:  Give the doctor copies of your parent's signed  health care proxy or durable medical power of attorney so he or she knows who in the family is responsible for making medical decisions should your parent be unable to do so. In addition, have your parent give the doctor a list of family members allowed access to his or her medical condition. Most doctors will have the patient sign consent forms so they can speak with that family member without the patient's presence.

 Pick One Family Liaison:  Pick one family member that you want the physician to speak to and who will then transmit this information to the rest of the family. Physicians do not have time to field phone calls from several family members.

 Attend Doctor’s Appointments:  Even if you just attend one appointment, it makes an enormous difference. Ask the doctor how he or she would like to be contacted whether by phone or e-mail and then give him or her a list of all the ways you can be reached in case of an emergency.

Get Help if You Need It:  If you can't attend appointments, consider hiring an agency like Angels For Hire that can do it for you. We can relay what was said during the visit, ask any questions you have, and bring up any concerns. Our care manager will notice things like weight loss, poor hygiene, disorder in the house, the mail not being collected, etc., and care professionals are particularly helpful when communicating with senior and medical providers. Our clients have found our services invaluable when they couldn’t be there for their loved one.