When our kids are little, trips together to the doctor are quite commonplace. Heading to the doctor's office alone is one of those special growing up moments most will take in their late teens. Time passes, and then many of us experience another bittersweet moment. We are once again involved in accompanying a beloved, but much older family member to the doctor's office.
When my senior dad entered the advanced stage of Parkinsons Disease, he and my mom moved near me as he wanted to be sure there would be a good support system for both of them. I helped them get their insurance and doctor network all switched over from their old state, and they asked if I would go with them to meet his neurologist. We were all so glad I did. With my every-present shorthand notebook and pen in hand, I helped them find the office, took detailed notes of what the doctor said, and asked many more questions than my parents did.
The next day, we discussed what had happened at the doctor's office. We were all quite surprised at how little both my parents remembered from the visit - including important information about all of his medications. It was a major eye-opener for me, realizing that my role of caregiver would definitely require my attendance at all their doctor appointments.
Taking good notes isn't the only advantage of going to the doctor's with your aging parents. I learned that many, though not all, doctors will spend more time and explain things more thoroughly with an extra adult present who is obviously overseeing their care. Perhaps it is the sense of being held accountable? Or maybe I just tend to be politely persistent with my list of questions. Whatever the reason, it's definitely been a plus.
I've found it's also beneficial in helping them find their way through the various medical complexes and understanding all they need to do. Plus I watched their comfort level increase dramatically by having me along. Much like those young children we accompanied so many years ago, we can provide loving encouragement and nurture to our senior parents, making their life easier, and ours as well. I guess that old saying is true - "the more things change, the more they stay the same."
Kaye Swain is a member of the Sandwich Generation dealing with the issues of caring for the elderly parents and relatives in her family while also babysitting grandchildren. She enjoys writing on those topics at SandwichINK, in order to provide other multigenerational caregivers with useful information, resources and encouragement.