How do I get my dad to share the responsibility of making decisions about my mother's healthcare with me?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 03, 2013
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad wants to be the advocate for my mother regarding healthcare, but he does not question the doctors and doesn't understand anything technical they tell him well enough to pass it on to me. How do I go about setting up a channel of communication between her doctors and me?

Expert Answers

This is a good question. I spoke to a neurologist friend and compared her viewpoint as a physician with mine as a nurse (and as the daughter of an elderly mom).

Her first point: the best way to find out what's going on with your mom is to attend the medical appointments, if possible. If this isn't an option, the next best thing is to periodically confer with the doctor by phone. But you'll need your mother's permission for this to take place. Her doctors will need to give consent.

You don't say if you've talked to your parents yet directly about letting you contact your mom's doctors, but it sounds like your dad is resistant. I wonder if he would be less so if you present your role as strictly back-up. Your dad's pride may make it hard for him to share the job of caring for your mom. He may see this as his responsibility as a loyal husband. It probably also makes him feel useful. But he may actually be relieved to have you there "just in case," and the trick is for him to learn this. Try telling him you don’t want to usurp his job, but to be there as a consultant, a second driver to share the load when and if he gets weary.

Are there other family members or friends you can bring in to talk to your dad about the situation who will go to bat for the idea of letting you be more involved? Your dad is probably going through a great deal of stress, and if someone can help him see the "common sense" of sharing the load, and that doing this doesn't mean he's weak, incapable, or unloving he may even come to appreciate your help.

If you do get permission to talk to your mother's doctors about her case, be aware that this kind of information-sharing usually happens by phone. Prioriize what you want to know and write down your questions beforehand, as there's a good chance doctors will call you in between appointments when they have limited time. Also remember this can be a two-way street. You may be able to enlighten your mom's doctors on her condition. Be sure to discuss these calls with your dad, in keeping with his desire to be the front man on your mom’s medical issues.