How to Get a Professional to Address the Senior Directly
Aging Matters

A reader, who is a family caregiver, wants to know how to redirect the attention away from her and back to the mother, the care recipient. She asks, "How should one respond when a medical professional directs their attention, and words, to a family member or caregiver rather than to the senior?"

She explains, "Having helping my mother after she fell and fractured several vertebrae, I encounter the situation multiple times. A doctor, nurse or physical therapist explains things to me rather than to her, who is sitting right there. She is perfectly capable of understanding a diagnosis or how many pills to take. I have non-verbally tried to direct the culprit's attention to my mother but I feel I should say something."

This happens in a store, restaurant, etc. Some people think that because someone is physically disabled, or advancing in age, they are cognitively impaired. "What is a polite but effective way to handle this behavior?"

In my caregiving days, mother and I rarely experienced bad manners. However, with my father, he preferred handing over the responsibility to his daughters. But to get answers for the reader, I queried the Elder Orphan Facebook group:"

As a case manager, I found this is a serious problem and made it a point to tell the Dr or staff that the person I was with was totally capable of answering questions, to please direct them to her, I was there for support, and to fill in the blanks."

"When they speak to me, I turn to my mom, "Mom, what do you think about such and such?" They get the message, and opens communication."

"It happened when I bought a car and my stepson tagged along. I told the sales guy that I was buying a car and he started talking to my stepson. When I walked away he could not understand why. I just reminded him what I said when I came in. With a doctor or his staff you don't want to turn them off, so it is just better to start with, "I'm here to take notes while you talk to Mom/Dad."

"As a nurse so many family members interrupt or answer for the patient when my attention and questions directed to the patient. I will say gently "let's hear what your mom has to say then you can fill in the blanks."

"If the medical professional is looking at me, I turn my gaze to my mother. The medical professional follows suit."

"They should speak to both parties. The more ears listening the better. And that is how I respond to the healthcare professional or sales clerk. I apply humor, and say, "she listens better than I do, haha."

"I say, 'they're asking about,' so she can respond. I don't take kindly to them ignoring her."

"I snap my fingers and say "over here."

Carol Marak, aging advocate, She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

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