Ways You Can Support Healthy Behaviors

Ways You Can Support Healthy Behaviors

Solutions for supporting the older adult's health include:

  • Finding out how you can support the older adult's health
  • Knowing how, when and why to contact health professionals
  • Going with the older adult to medical appointments
  • Getting access to the older adult's health information

Finding Out How You Can Support the Older Adult's Health

Ask if the older adult wants your help with health tasks, like looking up information, managing medications, keeping track of appointments, or finding useful tools or programs. Tell the older adult why and how you'd like to get involved.

Ask what the older adult doesn't want you or others to do. Sometimes, well-meaning people try to do too much and older adults might feel like others aren't respecting their decisions or privacy.

If you're looking up health information online, good resources include websites from federal agencies like the National Institute on Aging, or well-respected medical clinics, educational institutions or organizations. Look to see who publishes the website, who wrote the information and what credentials or expertise they have in the area, to make sure the information is accurate.

If you're helping manage medications, ask the older adult what's difficult. If the older adult uses a pill box, check to see if there are pills the older adult is forgetting to take. There are many tools that can help, including medication calendars, text or alarm reminders, pill boxes, multi-dose packs and large-print labels. Talk to the older adult's pharmacist. Health professionals might be able to suggest medication changes, like switching from pills to liquids, or from multiple doses a day to one. Ask a pharmacist or other health professional to review all the older adult's medications.

If you're helping keep track of appointments, ask if the older adult prefers a wall calendar, online calendar or list. With online calendars or lists, both of you can make changes and see each other's updates. If the older adult doesn't like online records, you can print out appointment details.

Ask if the older adult is interested in tools or resources to help with health or daily needs, like hearing aids, walkers or meal programs. Get recommendations from health professionals or local agencies like Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Senior Centers, or health or human services departments. Ask online or local support groups and health-related organizations for suggestions.

Ask if the older adult gets vaccines and preventative care, including:

  • Annual flu shots
  • Vaccines against pneumonia and shingles
  • Booster shots for tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis) and diphtheria
  • Annual physical exams
  • Annual vision and hearing tests

How you support the older adult's health might change over time. If the older adult has a new diagnosis, could receive new treatments or is looking for a new health professional, ask if you can help. If the older adult is making a major health decision or becomes seriously ill, you or others could help weigh options.

Knowing How, When and Why To Contact Health Professionals

Ask which health professionals the older adult sees regularly. Who is the older adult's primary health professional? Does that professional work with a nurse care manager or medical social worker?

Write down the older adult's health professionals' names and contact information. Ask if each focuses on certain health conditions or treatments, and include that information on your list.

During medical appointments, the older adult or you can ask health professionals:

  • Are there symptoms or other health issues we should contact your office about?
  • What types of questions should we call your office with?
  • When is the best time to call? Who should we ask for?
  • Can we ask questions through an online patient portal?

Add this information to your list of health professionals. Make copies of the list for the older adult and others who help.

If you have serious concerns about the older adult's driving, memory, judgment, personality changes or other sensitive topics, share them with the health professional before the older adult's appointment.

If the older adult is or might be having a health emergency, call 911 right away.

Going With the Older Adult to Medical Appointments

If the older adult wants you at medical appointments, ask if you can go with the older adult into the exam room. If you go into the exam room, ask if the older adult wants some time alone with the health professional.

You could:

  • Drive the older adult to medical appointments
  • Take notes on what health professionals say
  • Bring a list of the older adult's questions for the health professional
  • Ask for information to take home
  • Ask your own questions
  • Share what you've noticed about the older adult's health

Ask the older adult how much you should talk during the appointment. If you're in the room with the older adult and the health professional, encourage the professional to talk mostly with the older adult. If the health professional starts talking to you more, you might say:

  • "The older adult has a few questions for you."
  • "I'm not sure. What do you think?"
  • "I'm just here to help the older adult."

After the appointment, ask how the older adult feels the appointment went. Ask if there's anything the older adult would like to change or would like you to do differently next time.

Getting Access to the Older Adult's Health Information

Ask if the older adult wants you to be able to get information from health professionals. Health professionals can share someone's information, if the person is there and agrees.

Ask if the older adult wants you to be able to get information from health professionals, even when the older adult isn't present. For example, should you be able to call the older adult's nurse about test results or treatment options?

If so, call the health professional's office and ask how the older adult can officially give you permission to get information about their health.

You can usually pick up the older adult's prescription drugs, medical supplies, x-rays and other healthcare items without documenting their permission. However, some medications are more controlled. Ask the pharmacist if any of the older adult's medications limit who can pick them up.