Manage providers and therapies
Caregivers can feel overwhelmed by the many different medical professionals, health care providers, and therapies involved with the person receiving care. This article offers strategies for managing this aspect of caregiving.
Know the providers and therapies
Caregivers can feel overwhelmed by the many different medical professionals, health care providers, and therapies involved with the person receiving care. Effectively managing this aspect of caregiving plays a big part in giving the person the best possible care while also reducing stress for the caregiver. It is worth taking the time early in the caregiving period to put a system in place for coordinating and keeping track of providers and therapies.
An important first step is to create a well-organized list of all the health care providers of the person receiving care and what therapies they provide. This can be done on paper, in the Maia Care app, or (preferably) both, to accommodate different people’s comfort levels and preferred way of accessing information.
The list should include:
- Each professional’s name, title, and therapy provided. Explain any specialized words in clear language so that all members of the caregiving team can understand them. For example, an entry might read, “Dr. Stephens. Radiation oncologist (cancer doctor who uses radiation for treatment). Manages radiation treatment for Dad’s liver cancer.”
- The address of the location where the therapy takes place. This should include notes on parking, special driving directions, and so on. If the therapy takes place in the person’s home, this should be noted.
- Their contact information, including phone number, email address, website.
- The name and phone number or extension number of the office’s main contact. This might be a receptionist, scheduler, or medical secretary.
- How often they interact with the person receiving care and who they send their notes to. For example, an entry might read, “Gives Grandma leg massage 2x/month. Sends notes to Dr. Srinivasan (Grandma’s family dr.).”
- Notes on the professional’s style and best way to interact with them. This entry could read something like, “Uses big words, doesn’t explain. Intimidates Mom. Blows off questions. Be prepared and persistent. Make sure Mom eats well beforehand!”
Use notes and medical records to inform doctors
The various professionals and providers involved with a person’s case generally don’t communicate with each other.1 For this reason, the caregiver needs to act as the information hub and take charge of gathering, organizing, and sharing information among the medical team. This means taking notes and using medical records to inform doctors and other health care providers.
It is important to remember that, because of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the caregiver or any other person asking for medical information about the person receiving care needs to have written, verbal, or implied permission from the person in order for the health care professional to disclose it.
Share care-log notes with providers
Use Care Notes in the Maia app or a notebook to share observations about medications, food and drink, etc., from each caregiver’s shift. Before the person receiving care goes to an appointment or receives a therapy session, a separate set of notes should be made about any observations in the log that fall into this provider’s area of care.
For example, a note could read, “Wed a.m., Grandad stomach cramps after back pain meds. Ask Dr. Q. about causes, different brand/lower dose?” These notes should be shared with the provider.
Share medical records with providers
Sharing medical records and a list of current medications with health care providers is a needed step in making sure everyone has the information they need. While an electronic format, such as PDFs, can be effective for general record-keeping, it is best to keep physical copies of the most current and relevant records as well.
These records, along with a copy of the list of health care providers and a list of medications (or, better yet, the medication bottles themselves) should be taken to every appointment and shown to the provider as needed and appropriate.
Ask questions and take notes
Asking health care providers questions and making notes of the answers are crucial care-management skills. Notes serve as a reminder about each provider and therapy and also allow for big-picture coordination of the person’s care.
What follows are some tips for effective questioning:
- Do research before appointments on the basics about each therapy or medication. Make notes of any information that is confusing. Bring these research notes with you.
- Make a written list of questions based on the research and experiences with the person receiving care.
- Ask the person receiving care what questions they have, and add these to the list.
- At the appointment or session, let the person receiving care take the lead in asking questions. Follow up with any on the list that they haven’t asked.
- Ask questions about how the therapy, medication, or schedule fits in with those provided by other health care providers, and ask for clarification on anything that conflicts with other information you received. For example, you might say, “Mom’s chemo doctor says she should take her anti-nausea medication with meals, but you’re prescribing her a painkiller that also needs to be taken with meals and isn’t supposed to be taken with any other medication. What should we do?”
- Stay respectful, but persist in your questioning even if the professional seems impatient. Remember that the primary caregiver is the only person in a position to see the whole picture, so it is vitally important to have a clear and complete understanding of what’s going on.
Technology can make managing different providers and therapies easier. For example, the Maia Care App allows for easy sharing and coordination of key caregiving items, such as an Events calendar for appointments and Care Notes and a Care Stream for sharing information, such as the results of the latest biopsy or how the person receiving care slept the previous night.
Another useful technology is the online portals that some health care offices provide. In these, the caregiver can set up profiles for the person receiving care and themselves as a family caregiver. Through the portals, the caregiver can usually make non-urgent appointments and also ask questions, receive notifications and alerts from the office, and view summaries of past visits.2
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