American author and activist Betty Friedan once wrote, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” However, sometimes the person who receives that opportunity to be strong is the child of an aging parent diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Why Your Parent’s Records Are Secret
Adult children cannot walk into the doctor’s office of their parents and ask to see a copy of the medical records without approval from their parents. This is because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as HIPPA.
HIPPA protects the privacy of a person’s health records to the point that no professional can discuss them with another person — even another doctor, without prior authorization. This not only applies to doctors, but also nurses, hospital administration, and emergency services employees at the fire department.
However, once your parent begins to show signs of decline, then it is time to have them sign papers authorizing another person to see their records. This will give you the best chance to plan long-term care for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
No Detail Is Too Small Regarding a Parent’s Health
When it comes to your parent’s health, especially in the case of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, no detail is too small. Once your parent authorizes your access to their medical records, you will undoubtedly have questions for the doctor. Here are some of the most important things to ask.
1. What makes you certain my parent has Alzheimer’s and not something else? Your parent’s doctor can explain how he arrived at the diagnosis not only to alleviate your fears but also to help you face the denial of other family members who claim your parent’s symptoms are a sign of merely getting older.
2. What stage of Alzheimer’s is my parent in right now? Knowing the current state of your parent’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis can give you an idea of what to expect regarding their symptoms. Although there are a lot of common patterns across the board, realize that each person experiences the disease in their own way.
3. What can I expect in the following stages of the disease? The Alzheimer’s Association website offers a lot of great information to caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, regardless what stage of the disease they are currently experiencing (http://www.alz.org/). However, it pays to ask your parent’s doctor, as he is familiar with their current state of health.
4. Does my parent require medication to help slow or improve symptoms? Sometimes doctors may prescribe medications to help stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to keep in mind that they do not work in all patients and that there is no current medication that can reverse the symptoms or cure the disease.
5. Can you recommend any non-drug therapies for my parent? Most of the support that Alzheimer’s patients receive is from non-drug therapies including improving their diet or adding daily exercise. Whether or not your parent’s doctor mentions them will depend on his relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, which is why it is important to ask.
6. Can you recommend the name of a support group for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients? Caregivers need support so that they can have much-needed encouragement and advice from people who share their concerns. In addition to support groups, the caregiver can also receive support from training workshops that teach how to take care of their parent.
7. What other health changes can my parent expect to experience? The health of an Alzheimer’s patient varies because no two patients are exactly alike. However, some common concerns are osteoporosis, becoming more vulnerable to falls, being more susceptible to disease due to changes in diet and exercise, and depression.
8. What is the best course of action to take in case of an emergency? Because you are unlikely to be familiar with your parent’s doctor at first, you will not be familiar with how to touch base with them in the off-hours. Establish how to contact them for both non-emergency and emergency questions, whether it is through some type of message service, email, or perhaps even a direct line.
Stalling the Inevitable with Alzheimer’s Disease
Elderly people who follow a healthy diet and exercise plan on a daily basis are less likely to succumb to diseases like Alzheimer’s. However, as bodies age, the things they lose require more vitamins and nutrients, including vital antioxidants that fight free radicals that cause disease.
When asking your doctor the above questions, also ask if there is any type of supplement, such as vitamin supplements or glutathione pills that your parent can take to help build back the things the human body loses as it ages.