Even the most intelligent of us can become overwhelmed in an often-unwieldy health care system, in which a variety of consultants and specialists, tests and procedures demand attention and decisions.
Most decisions do not need to be made urgently, but can be deliberated. Take the time to digest the information and seek clarification as needed. Often, a “watching waiting” approach is indicated.
Most geriatric health professionals are willing to answer questions, but to make life easier for everyone, designate a capable “point person.” It’s also helpful to preface a conversation with, “ I need a few minutes of your time” or “when is a good time to talk with you?” or “who is the best person to talk with?”
The underlying question individuals and families want to consider is “What do we want to accomplish?” The answer to that question will guide further questions and decisions that are made. Remember that treatments (procedures and medications) can be effective, but not necessarily have benefit for each individual. All treatments should be made in the context of the individual, their life circumstance, other health concerns and individual values.
Some other medical intervention questions to consider:
- What conditions are you trying to rule out?
- What treatments and tests are being considered, what information are you looking for, and how will that information impact on treatment?
- What are the benefits and risks of treatment?
- What is the likely outcome if treatment is declined or delayed?
- Are there other treatments/approaches that can be tried?
- How will we know the treatment is effective and how long will treatment be necessary?
- What is the prognosis and chances for a full recovery? What will “recovery” look like?
Thoughtful dialogue creates a partnership that keeps the ill individual central to decision making. This partnership benefits everyone, patients and practitioner alike.