Helping Loved Ones with Health Care | AARP® Medicare Plans from UnitedHealthcare®

Helping Loved Ones with Health Care

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Tips for talking to your loved ones about health care decisions.

Clear communication is an important part of making successful health care decisions, but it can be a challenge. These tips may help you talk to your loved one about his or her health care issues positively.

Define your role on your family member or friend’s health care team

Depending on your relationship, you may be a coach, main care provider or decision maker. A health care team can also include physicians, pharmacists, friends, community groups and financial advisors. Each of these people contributes their expertise to arrive at a good decision.

Speak in an easy-to-understand way

Organize your information. Select three to five important points to begin your conversation. Give your family member or friend an overview, and then fill in the details. Use common words to explain your points.

Listen actively

Allow enough time for your family member or friend to complete their thoughts without interruption. From time to time in your conversation, repeat what you heard from your family member or friend. You can ask them to do the same. This demonstrates that you've been listening, and also measures how well you have understood others.

Demonstrate care and respect

Help your family member or friend feel valued and involved in decision making. Try to get their view on an issue before offering your own. Ask open questions that lead them to share what they are thinking, such as, “How do you manage paying for your prescription drugs?"

How your loved one reacts could be a sign that they may want to be independent, maintain their pride or privacy or that they need to express their feelings.

To keep the lines of communication open:

  • Imagine yourself in your loved one’s situation.
  • Carry on an open-minded discussion.
  • Be sincere.
  • Be considerate and nonjudgmental.
  • Pay attention and acknowledge what is said.
  • Maintain open body language.

Set up a time to talk

Keep this appointment just like any other important meeting. Designate a quiet space, preferably at home or over the phone, so information and records are readily available. Try to talk at a time of day when your loved one feels his or her best.

Prepare for communication roadblocks

Your family member or friend may have an impairment that makes clear communication difficult. If your loved one has trouble:

  • Seeing: Your tone of voice is a particularly important cue. Put yourself in his or her line of sight.
  • Hearing: Speak in a clear, loud, low-pitched voice. Use short sentences. Speak without eating, drinking, smoking or covering your mouth. If you need to repeat yourself, consider rephrasing the sentence, as different words might be easier to hear.
  • Speaking: Speak as slowly and clearly as you can. This gives them permission to speak slowly, too.