Follow-up appointments with doctors and therapists are an important part of recovering from a hospitalization. As a bonus, they can provide support and encouragement for family caregivers.
Before your senior loved one leaves the hospital, you'll likely receive a list of scheduled and/or recommended follow-up medical appointments. These appointments are critical for certain care needs such as necessary prescription updates, blood tests, incision and wound care, and follow-up X-rays and CT scans that help ensure your loved one is on the right track to recovery.
It's also smart to review these nine considerations before your loved one is discharged to ensure the home is ready.
Managing the Appointments
Oftentimes a few people help a loved one get back on their feet after a hospitalization, so communication is key! Be sure everyone who is involved in care knows who will arrange for follow-up care and appointments.
It’s also important to discuss who will be responsible for transportation. If your loved one can't drive, is in a wheelchair or has medical equipment that must be carried along (e.g., oxygen or IV) you may need to ask other family members or friends to help. Hiring a professional caregiver or private transportation company to accommodate medical equipment may help ease any angst about getting to appointments.
Keep a large desk or wall calendar handy to note follow-up visits using a bold colored ink. It's also a good idea to keep the appointment calendar by the phone so as new appointments are scheduled, or existing ones are moved, they can be easily recorded.
Keep Tabs on Symptoms and Medications
Before going to the doctor's office or other follow-up appointment, make sure to have a list of all current prescriptions, over the counter medications and supplements being taking.
Spend some time with your loved one discussing any symptoms they are experiencing such as nausea, constipation, breathing difficulties, rashes, lack of appetite, etc.
Create a care notebook (or list) for your loved one and anyone helping take care of them to jot down questions and overall wellbeing observations. Be sure to date entries and note any changes a physician may be interested in – medications taken, fluctuations in diet, weight or sleep schedules. Remember to take the notebook to the doctor's office and ask these questions.
Questions to Ask at a Follow-up Appointment
- Why are we meeting today?
- What medical conditions do I have?
- What else do I need to do to aid my recovery?
- Should I see another health care provider?
- Do all of my doctors have my medical care or discharge plan?
- Who should I call if I have questions or problems?
- May I have a printout of newly scheduled or upcoming follow-up visits?
Encouraging a loved one to stay on track with follow-up medical appointments and the prescribed care plan can help with a smooth and timely recovery. Any time a loved one must recover from a hospital stay, hiring some extra help at home to manage activities of daily living and household tasks can lighten the caregiving load for many family caregivers.