I am a member of several caregiver Facebook groups and one common thread I read about is the frustration family members experience trying to communicate with doctors. From hospital discharge plans to changes in medication, family caregivers often feel like they are left in the dark by physicians, which makes caregiving even more of a challenge.
Doctors typically respond that they don’t have time to have such discussions with caregivers, leaving that task to nurses or other hospital staff members. Some doctors also exhibit a reflexive reluctance to establish communication with a patient’s family members.
It’s clear that there are tangible benefits in making sure a patient’s family has the necessary resources to manage a loved one’s care at home. The ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of repeat hospitalizations. Empowering family caregivers with information on medication, at-home treatments and home health services can make a major difference in a patient’s recovery.
I felt the communication involving my father’s care was handled poorly. So many decisions seemed to be made with little input from family because we weren’t present at the moment of crisis. With my mother, I accompanied her through hospital stays and was there to advocate for her, so the communication was better. There were plenty of times when I had to extract information out of an inpatient, reluctant doctor, but I learned to push until I got the answers I needed.
It shouldn’t be so difficult for family members to obtain information on their loved one’s medical status and future care plan. This should be an automatic discussion, whether it’s done with a doctor or other health care professional. The CARE Act, passed in many states, directly addresses this issue and makes sure family members are involved in hospital discharge plans. The RAISE Family Caregivers Act, if signed into law by the president, could also address this issue and offer a national recommendation.
My heart goes out to those caregivers who are dealing with the frustrating process of communicating with medical professionals. I hope legislation along with continuing caregiver advocacy helps improve the frequency and quality of doctor and family caregiver communication.