We may not be the CEO of a fortune 500 company, but we usually are the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of our homes. I’m not quite sure how we got this role, but most of us take on the title and the responsibilities in some capacity. Maybe because many of us are born nurturers or others just trust us. But in many cases it’s because no one else wants it.
Either way we’ve been crowned, and whether it’s earned or not, it is critical to our family’s survival. We often lead the team when it comes to health. Whether it be a doctor’s appointment or a diet change, we’re often the one saying we need to get it done. We make sure our little ones get to the doctor for their annual checkups and the dentist for a cleaning. And we remind our spouses not to forget their annual visit. And we’re usually the one asking the questions, getting the answers, or working with our partner to help make the tough decisions.
And if that’s not enough, we often inherit these same responsibilities for our parents as they age. For those of us in the sandwich generation, we juggle with what to do next when our little guy has an earache while simultaneously getting a call from our mom saying our dad has been walking with a limp for over a month. Both important, both need us, and both require us to be ready for the job! It’s hard navigating the health of those close to you, so here’s just a few tips to help make the journey of care-taking a little smoother:
Keep key information organized
Whether it’s a journal or a binder with sections for each family member, organization is key. We call this a personal health record. It can be paper or a digital record. Personally, digital makes it easier for sharing with family members and other providers. There are a variety of tools on the web that may be helpful. Try looking for a personal health record/passport.
a. A list of doctors’ names and contact information for each family member
b. A list of diagnoses given, i.e. arthritis, headaches, etc. along with medications for each
c. Keep a copy of test results, hospital discharge summaries, and any additional information that is important to understanding your family member’s illness
d. A list of their medical care preferences: advance directive, information on resuscitation, general likes and dislikes that will improve care, etc.
List doctor appointments with any questions you may have
Waiting until you get to the doctor’s office to ask key questions might work for some of you, but you’ll likely forget some of the questions that have come up along the way.
Consider going to a doctor’s appointment with your parent(s) or spouse
Your parents may sometimes forget important information or not ask the questions you need answered. Your presence at the appointment also helps when communicating with your parent or the physician about the plan of care. With you present and participating, information given is less likely to get lost or forgotten.
Request a conference call instead
If you have a hard time attending appointments, you can also request a conference call to discuss the plan of care and gain insight from your parent’s physician regarding chronic illness, care, and usual course.
Keep the conversation going
Lastly, don’t forget to keep the conversation going with your love ones regarding their health. In different seasons of their life, their desires with care and healthcare needs may change.
It is not an easy job caring for your children and spouse. When you add your parents to the mix, it might feel overwhelming. Organizing information is the key. Do small pieces at a time. Once health information is organized, it allows for easy access, ease in sharing information, and a valuable source of information when making importance decisions regarding your loved ones.
You got this, Mama! Let’s not postpone it any longer. We might be a part of the sandwich generation, but let’s not live squished between our sweet babies and our parents.