Working with health services

9 minute read

When you care for someone who has health problems, you will need to work with health services.

You may deal with doctors, nurses and pharmacists regularly. You may also deal with other health care professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and psychologists. These people will often work together as a team to provide care.

You have an important role to play as part of the team. For example, you might need to make sure the person you care for gets to appointments or gets the treatment they need. You might also be involved in making decisions about their health care.

Talking with health professionals

As a carer, you will need to talk with doctors and other health professionals. You will need to tell them about the person you care for so they can provide the best possible treatment. You will also need to ask questions so you can make decisions and provide the best care.

Before you talk with a health professional

Before talking with a health professional, you should:

  • talk with the person you care for about any questions or concerns that they have about their health
  • ask the person you care for if they want you to go to the appointment with them
  • write down a list of questions that you want to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they might be ‘stupid’
  • write down a list of things you want to tell the health professional
  • bring information and documents to appointments (for example, the results of tests)

When you talk with a health professional

When you talk with a health professional, you should:

  • be clear on what you and the person you care for want to achieve
  • take notes of what they say
  • ask them to explain anything that you don’t understand
  • ask if there are any handouts, websites or other places where you can get more information
  • ask who you should contact for more help, if there is something they can’t help with

If you are meeting the professional for the first time, it can be a good idea to take a copy of the Carer Recognition Act, so that they understand your role as someone who can speak for the person you care for.

My Health Record

An online My Health Record collects information about someone’s health, including what conditions they have, what medicines they are taking, and the results of medical tests.

It can be a good idea to make sure the person you care for has a My Health Record. This keeps their health information in one place and lets doctors and other health professionals find it easily.

You should also make sure your doctor adds information to the record. You can talk to your doctor, or any health professional, to ask them to add information to the record.

Going to a health appointment

One of your jobs as a carer may be to help the person you care for when they go to appointments with doctors or other health professionals.

Before the appointment

When you book an appointment, think about how much time you need. If there are a lot of things to talk about, you can ask for a longer appointment. You can also ask to be seen quickly, if the problem is urgent.

It’s a good idea to bring to the appointment:

  • the person’s Medicare card
  • any concession cards (for example, their Pensioner Concession Card)
  • their health fund card (if they belong to a health fund)
  • any test results or X-rays
  • the referral from their usual doctor, if they are seeing a specialist
  • your emergency care plan, which includes a list of all their current medicines
  • a pen and paper

It’s also a good idea to plan what you need to talk about and ask. Write down any questions or problems you want to talk about. You can use Healthdirect’s Question Builder to help you plan for a medical appointment.

During the appointment

During the appointment, you can write down the answers so you don't forget anything.

You can ask about:

  • the person's condition and how it will affect them
  • what treatment is available
  • how you should care for the person
  • how to manage medicines
  • whether there are any danger signs you need to be aware of
  • when the doctor next needs to see the person
  • whether there is anything else you need to know

Care coordination and case management

Care coordination is about planning a person’s care and support, and sharing information with everyone who helps to care for the person. Care coordination is something that your health care team may do after talking with you and the person you care for.

What is care coordination

Care coordination includes:

  • assessing a person’s physical and mental health
  • educating and supporting the person and their carer
  • helping the person get community care and support services
  • talking with health and community care providers
  • planning what services might be needed in the future

Care coordination makes things easier for the person because they don’t have to tell their story over and over, and they don’t need as many tests and examinations. It also makes it easier for health services because they know what others are doing and when.

In a hospital or community organisation, you may have a ‘case manager’ who will coordinate care. A case manager is a health professional who is responsible for managing care. A case manager can assess the person you care for, monitor their health, plan their care, and help them to find services.

How to get care coordination

Your doctor or case manager and other health professionals can work with you to make a care plan for the person you care for. The plan says which services they need and who will provide the services.

If you think you need a care plan, talk with your doctor.

Care plans should be checked regularly. The person may get new symptoms and new illnesses and this might mean that they need other services, or that your caring tasks might change.

The care plan should also tell you who the main contact is for the care plan and team. That person will help you if you have any concerns. The main contact could be your usual doctor or case manager.

Being in hospital

If the person you care for becomes seriously ill or injured, they may go into a hospital.

What to expect in hospital

Hospital staff will try to explain everything to you and tell you what they recommend. It can help to write things down and ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff to say things more than once. If you have any concerns or complaints, speak to the nurse who is looking after the person you care for.

You might need to make decisions about the person’s care, if they can’t decide for themselves.

You might also need to consent (agree) to their treatment, if they can’t give consent themselves. The hospital usually needs consent from the person’s next of kin (closest family member) or their guardian before they treat the person.

What to do in hospital

Bring your emergency care plan to the hospital and give a copy to hospital staff. The plan has all the information about the person you care for in one place, including details of their medicines and care.

If the person you care for has an advance care plan (which says what care and health services they want), make sure you tell the hospital staff about it as soon as possible. The staff will use the advance care plan to help make decisions about medical treatment.

You should check with the hospital staff about who can visit the person and when they can visit. Let family and friends know what the hospital staff say.

When you visit, make sure you wash your hands because hospital patients can easily catch infections. Don’t visit if you are ill.

If the person you care for has an infection or is seriously ill, you may not be able to visit. There also may be times when hospital staff ask you to leave the hospital room so they can treat the patient. It is important for the person to rest and get the treatment they need, so listen to what the hospital staff say.

Going home from hospital

When the person you care for is ready to leave hospital, you will need to plan and prepare for their future care.

Options for care after hospital

When the person leaves hospital, they may go:

  • home, with the usual care from you or other carers
  • home, with extra help such as a community care package
  • to an aged care home, either for a short time or permanently
  • into rehabilitation, where they will get further treatment before they can go home
  • into palliative care

Making plans for leaving hospital

Hospital staff will help to make sure going home or somewhere else goes as smoothly as possible. You will need to talk with hospital staff, and may also need to talk with your doctor, other members of your family, or social services. You need to talk about and plan:

  • the person’s future care needs
  • follow-up tests, appointments and medicines
  • any equipment or changes to their home that might be needed
  • what services are available
  • anything else you need to ask

Hospital staff can help you to make a plan after talking with you and the person you care for about what they want. This plan should cover the support and treatment the person will need outside hospital, who is responsible for their care, and when and how often care will be provided.

You can talk with Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 Monday to Friday between 8am and 5pm about the services and support you can get to help you and the person you care for.