Dr. Amy D'Aprix: The Caregiver's Caregiver

Article excerpt

By ASA Staff

Dr. Amy DAprix is a consultant, author, corporate speaker, coach, aging and retirement expert, and the executive director of the DAI Foundation-a nonprofit established to meet caregivers' needs. She is a strong advocate for elders and their caregivers, assisting them through a time of life that can be fraught with misunderstandings and anxiety about medical care.

Aging Today spoke with DAprix about her web seminar, Patient/Doctor Communication, that will be held on November 16. For more information about the seminar, and the Family Caregiver Support series of web seminars, sponsored by Home Instead, visit www.asaging.org/ november-16-2011.

Aging Today: Without spoiling it for our web seminar attendees, can you give us a preview of what will be covered in your upcoming web seminar?

Amy D'Aprix: I'll be covering why it's important to have good communication. How do you do that? We know that when you have good communication with doctors, there are fewer repeat visits, fewer medical errors, the patients are more engaged and more confident- and they better understand their treatment plans. Patients become more active partners in their own care.

There will also be some discussion of legal issues like advance directives- what they are, why they're important.

AT: The advice you give on your website (www.dramycaregiving.com) is practical and rooted in common sense. How did you arrive at such down-to-earth answers?

AD: I think that my job is for people to have information that they can take action on, that they don't need to translate out of academic speak or professional speak. My whole thing is how to be approachable and professional. Then you can get answers and your needs met.

Recently, Home Instead asked me to design an assessment, with the help of professional caregivers, to find out if someone has dementia. I found one assessment out of many that was written for lay people, so caregivers can understand it. I'll definitely use that one. Elders and caregivers are stressed enough already without complicating things with complex language.

AT: What's the most common problem elders have when communicating with their doctors?

AD: They get intimidated. This is changing with the baby boomers- they will not be that way. But for the current cohort that is now elderly, it's how they were raised. They were taught not to question what the doctor says, which leads to bad communication.

When my dad was in his mid to late 80s he was having difficulty urinating, and was sent to a urologist. When he came back I asked him, 'What did the doctor say?'

'Not much,' he answered.

'What did he say about your problem?'

'He said I don't have prostate cancer,' my dad said.

'What about your problems urinating?'

'I didn't ask about that, I thought if he thought it was a problem he would have asked.'

My dad was intimidated to ask beyond that one question. …