Working on solutions ahead of
time will make it easier
to manage things later on
Giving up control, in any situation, can be frightening,
frustrating, or even traumatic. The last thing anyone wants to feel is powerless.
By Michael Wayne
During the last month or two, a couple of events gave me extra reason to think about healthcare—one personal, one not.
The personal event was the passing of an aunt who, more than a decade ago, had a debilitating stroke that left her partially paralyzed. The other event was the news that American Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton was fighting for her life in the hospital with pneumonia. Regarding the latter, for those who are not old enough to know, Retton was the face of the U.S. Gymnastics Team during the 1984 Olympics. Her infectious, glowing smile was everywhere, including boxes of Wheaties cereal.
My uncle served as my aunt’s primary caretaker for the remainder of her life following her stroke, and my younger cousin, his son, helped extensively. The news about Retton was shared with the world via her daughter. Thankfully, it appears that Retton is recovering, but the revelation that she doesn’t have insurance and that an online fundraising campaign was started to defray her hospital bills was shocking to me.
Frankly, it feels like most people largely ignore their personal healthcare. Expecting those same individuals to be invested in their parents’ healthcare, aside from simply hoping that their parents remain healthy, feels like it’s asking a lot. It shouldn’t, but it does. The reality is, as uncomfortable as it may be, sons and daughters need to be involved. That’s especially critical if, and when, it becomes necessary for a child to become the manager of a parent’s healthcare. Here are the top five ways to get younger clients engaged in their parents’ healthcare.
Tell them to talk about it. Encourage your younger clients to start a conversation with their parents. Much the same as we in the insurance industry have loss control personnel assess what’s going on with our clients, children need to ask and learn from their parents what’s going on. This should be a discovery phase where everything should be made known regarding how often doctors are being seen, what conditions physicians are managing, what medications they have prescribed, and so on.
Both sides may feel uncomfortable with this initially, but this discussion is a necessary first step.
Ensure they know the financials. As if talking about health isn’t a touchy enough subject, children also must know their parents’ financial standing. This is a crucial aspect of the overall plan that will have to be made.
If parents do not have the finances to take care of healthcare expenses long-term, the determination of what to do to make certain the care they need can be afforded will have to be made. Financial help may be necessary and, if the situation requires it, it is obviously advisable to figure that out on the frontend, instead of learning about it when an inescapable hole has been dug, scrambling, and ultimately making poor financial decisions for everyone involved.
Have them help their parents with logistics. The world of healthcare can be frustrating for anyone. We’re subjected to making appointments and getting help via online chats with bots, by having to send emails to generic addresses, or contending with automated menus on the phone.
For people with medical conditions or impairments of any sort, including cognitive or hearing impairments, such situations can be nearly impossible to contend with successfully. Even meeting in person with physicians can be challenging, especially when it comes to relaying information to others about what was discussed.
Putting together a planner for medical updates that can be brought to appointments is a great idea. Programming essential medical phone numbers in a parent’s phone to make them easier to find to get the direct help that they need is another.
Make sure they have access to information. HIPAA can be a hindrance when people are trying to do the right thing. Without access to a parent’s information, their children are limited.
To alleviate this issue, remember to inform your clients to take necessary steps like having their parent list them as an approved individual to speak to their doctor, having their parent authorize documentation to provide their children medical record access, or having their parent sign a power of attorney for their care to be managed.
In particular, the last of these can provide peace of mind to both parent and child in the event the situation calls for it.
Have them keep their parents involved in what they are doing. Giving up control, in any situation, can be frightening, frustrating, or even traumatic. The last thing anyone wants to feel is powerless.
It’s important that children ensure, as much as possible, that parents understand what is happening each step of the way. If not handled properly, this is a situation that is ripe for resentment to fester and for relationships to be ruined. Parents need to know that this isn’t a dictatorship that is being imposed upon them and that this is a respectful means to make certain their healthcare needs are fully addressed.
While doctors may make the worst patients, insurance professionals may also be the worst insureds.
Though the suggestions presented here are geared toward you having conversations with clients, they are also meant for you. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to make certain you and your parents have an open line of communication regarding their care.
If you are on the opposite end, engage your child or children in a dialogue. These are tough conversations to have, but navigating this path without a roadmap—or GPS if you prefer—certainly makes things much more challenging and stressful.
Michael Wayne is an insurance freelance writer.