How to communicate effectively with your parent’s medical team

Knowing how to adapt your role in your parents' lives as they age can be a challenging balancing act. They probably spent most of your childhood and young adulthood guiding you to make the best life decisions, but there often comes a shift where you start worrying about them more.

Having older parents means that a key area of your concerns is always going to be their health. Did they get their flu jab? Are they eating well? Do they get enough exercise? Whether your parent has a chronic health condition or just needs to keep an eye on their general health, being able to openly communicate with their doctor is important for both you and them.

But how do you go about this without undermining your parent or making them feel like you're taking control away from them?

Talk to them about any concerns

It may sound obvious, but many people don’t talk to their mother or father about their concerns until they're both sat in the doctor's office. This may be because you don't want to worry them or burden them with your own concerns, but it's important that you give them the opportunity to talk to you about the issue.

If you suddenly raise a topic or subject out of the blue with the doctor, even if it's something as minor as what medication they're on, it can feel like you are trying to take control and cut them out of an important element of their life. On a more personal level, it can also feel like a betrayal if you have to make decisions on behalf of your loved one with their medical team without their input.

We’ve put together a list of questions for you and your loved one to ask and answer to help get the conversation about medical care going.

Example questions include:

  • Are there any side effects of your medication?
  • Are you in pain/discomfort at all?
  • How are you feeling?
  • How do you take your medication?
  • Are you lonely?

Make them a part of the conversation

Maintaining a conversation between three people can be difficult. It's natural to focus on the person you're directly talking to and forget anything else. You need to ensure your parent feels involved in the conversation about their health, even if they are happy with you taking the lead.

If you have a good relationship with your parent and you've talked to them beforehand, they may feel comfortable with you taking the lead to discuss your concerns with their doctor. Even if this is the case, it's important that you make eye contact with your parent, as well as the doctor, and ask them questions throughout the discussion such as 'how do you feel?' or 'what do you think?'.

Understand their priorities

You need to keep your parent at the heart of every discussion you have about their health with doctors or medical teams. This is why it's important to have open and honest discussions as a family about what sort of care they'd want if their needs change, and what their priorities would be. Keeping this communication channel open will make it easier to discuss their health without undermining them.

Even if it's a more low-key check-up with the doctor, talk to your parent beforehand and see if there is anything they're worried about or want to double check. This can also be the perfect time for you to share your own concerns.

Want to know more about how you can support your older parent? On our website you’ll find helpful guides about the types of care available at Barchester that may suit you or your loved one. To find your nearest care home to discuss your care needs do click here.