Communicating with Health Care Providers

When communicating with health care providers, it’s important to plan ahead so you can be organized and get the most out of your visit. You might even consider preparing a medical binder to take with you. 

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Here are some pointers for visits to the doctor:

  • Have all your basic Medical and Contact Information with
  • Be clear about what you want to say to the doctor; avoid rambling
  • Plan what to ask – Write questions down
  • Bring your list of medications and supplements to appointments
  • Tell the doctor about other physicians and health care they are providing
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions; expect clear answers
  • Take notes

Quick tips for partnering with medical providers:

  • Make a consultation appointment with the doctor if you have several questions and concerns
  • Learn the routine of the doctor’s office
  • Get to know the nurse and office staff
  • Ask if you can contact the nurse directly with questions
  • Find out if the physician will see patients in a nursing facility
  • Find out how the doctor feels about end-of-life issues

Recommendations for clear communication

Practicing clear communication will help you be a more effective caregiver and a better advocate for the person in your care. Because good communication helps people clear up misunderstandings and confusion quickly, builds positive relationships and leads to better care.

  • Call them by name and introduce yourself by name and that you are ‘caregiver’ for your relative or friend.
  • Use facts, rather than opinions or assumptions, to describe medical problems. Say, “Mother has been coughing for two weeks” rather than “I think she has bronchitis.”
  • Make eye contact with every person in the medical profession
  • Stay in the moment – breathe deeply
  • Establish rapport
  • Maintain a strong sense of self
  • Be prepared – Think about your goals for your appointment.
  • Clearly state your purpose – Give the reason why you need medical help.
  • Stay focused on the current problems, issues, treatments, and follow-up
  • Offer relevant information – Focus on the most important information first. Avoid information that is not current or relevant.
  • Ask questions – Be certain you understand what is taking place, what your care receiver needs, and what you should be doing.
  • Be assertive – Without being aggressive, rude or overbearing, explain your needs and what you are not able to do.
  • Show respect and expect respect

How to Build Mutual Understanding

Building understanding and trust is a process. Practice the following and your ability to communicate will grow stronger.

  • Active listening—Really listen and paraphrase what you heard. This also helps clarify information for the care receiver and ‘decode’ jargon.
  • Ask for clarification—Try to understand the meaning that the speaker intends.
  • Ask questions—Check your understanding by saying, “The part that isn’t clear to me is…” “Can you clarify what you mean by…?”
  • Demonstrate Understanding—Use phrases such as “So what you are saying is…”
  • Avoid Assumptions—Ask questions until you are sure of what is being said. Say “If I understand you right, you mean…”
  • State your difficulties and concerns—If you have a worry or concern, state them briefly and clearly.
  • Encourage collaboration—Work actively as part of a team. You are an important part of the overall health and independence of your care receiver.
  • Focus on common goals—Agree on the actions that need to be taken to achieve those goals.
  • Clarify responsibilities—Be clear on who is responsible for what. Make sure that the people involved can do what they are responsible for. If needed, get extra help along the way with a particular task.
  • Speak openly and honestly—Explain how you and the person in your care are responding emotionally to the treatment plan.
  • Help with problem solving—As the caregiver, you have important information about what may be contributing to problems or causing difficulties. Share this information with the health care team.
  • Express appreciation—Remember to say “thank you.

Resources for Caregivers

  • Call 2-1-1 throughout Texas for information and access to health and human service information for all ages.
  • Call 800-252-9240 to find local Texas Area Agency on Aging.
  • Call 800-677-1116 – Elder Care Locator service to find help throughout the U.S.

Use resources such as Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Types of assistance provided by AAAs:

  • Information and referral
  • Caregiver education and training
  • Caregiver respite
  • Caregiver support coordination
  • Case management
  • Transportation assistance

Assistance available through AAAs for persons age 60 and older may include:

  • Benefits counseling
  • Ombudsman – advocacy for those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • Home-delivered meals
  • Congregate meals
  • Light housekeeping

Be sure to check out our Resource Directory, FAQ, and Educational Events Calendar for more great information! Permission is granted to duplicate any and all parts of this page to use in education programs supporting family members caring for elders. 

Reviewed November 2022
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We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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