If you are serving as a family caregiver then you are most likely taking on the household chores, shopping, transportation, and personal care for you and your loved one. Plus you may also be the person to administer medications, injections, and medical treatment for yourself or a loved one. At some point in time, most family caregivers need to ask for advice about medications and medical treatments.

While family caregivers will discuss their loved one’s care with the physician, the family caregiver seldom talks about their own health, which is equally important. Creating a relationship with a physician that addresses the health needs of both your loved one and yourself is vital. The responsibility of this partnership ideally is shared between you, the physician, and other healthcare staff. However, it will often fall to you to be assertive, using good communication skills, to ensure that both your loved one’s and your own needs are met. Here are a few tips to help you communicate with your physician.

Prepare a list of questions. Write down your questions and concerns before your next medical appointment. Write down the most important questions or concerns first. This way, you won’t forget to ask about something that was important to you. Remember to try and make your questions specific and brief, your doctor may have limited time. Once you’re at your appointment, ask your most important questions first.

Use “I” statements. Doctors may use medical language that is normal for them but may be unfamiliar to you. If you’re having trouble understanding your doctor, say, “I don’t understand.” This will be much more effective than saying, “You’re being unclear.”

Be assertive. If you don’t know or understand something, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask. If you feel the question has not been answered in a way you understand,  you may want to ask your doctor or nurse if there is another time that the two of you can discuss it in more detail. Ask your doctor how you can reach him or her, whether by phone or email, outside of office hours in case you have additional questions.

If something is unclear, try repeating it back to your doctor. This is effective in clarifying what is being said. You might start with the words, “So you mean I should…”or “So I think you are suggesting that…” If you understand better with visual aids, ask your doctor to write down what is being recommended.

Do not be embarrassed. Health issues can be hard to talk about, but it is important that your doctor has all the information so he can recommend the best possible care.

Do not wait to be asked. If your doctor does not specifically ask for information you think is important, tell him.