Dear Family Resource,
My parents still live in their own home with help from a caregiver 6 hours a day. They each have health problems and their caregiver drives them to doctor appointments at least 2-3 times per month. The problem is I can’t get good, clear answers from either of them about what the doctors are telling them. I have a health care power of attorney for both of them yet I know very little about their medical conditions. I’m worried that they may get confused about the doctor’s instructions and something bad could happen. I want to start taking them to their appointments and sit in when they speak with their doctors but I can’t convince them that having another set of ears is for their own good (and not just me being nosy). Do you have a suggestion on how I can facilitate a family planning discussion?
~ Concerned Son
Dear Concerned Son:
Is there something that makes you worry about your parents and their ability to follow through on their doctor’s directives? Are you noticing signs of dementia or self-neglect or are you worried just because they are aging?
If you do notice one or both of them failing, you may want to sit down with your parents and have a frank discussion about family planning. Let them know that you support them living independently in their home, and that you want to make sure they have the necessary supports in place. This could include their caregiver either going into the appointment(s) with them or having the doctor/nurse print something for them to take home when leaving their appointment. If indeed they are failing mentally you can initiate your power of attorney and check in with their doctor(s) directly.
I do think as a courtesy to them, it would be better for them to go home with something printed. Regardless of their mental capabilities, with their help, you can set up a binder with sections for both your mother and your father where you can put important info on their health history: diagnoses, medications, emergency contacts, their POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment), and information from their appointments.
~ Family Resource
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See this Guide to Power of Attorney for Elderly Parents for more information.