Navigating Healthcare Services

When we ask caregivers what could make their caregiving journeys easier, assistance with navigating healthcare services is one of the most common responses we hear. Caregivers want to know what services are available, what’s suitable for their loved one, how these services work together, and when the best time to access them is. Essentially, they want to know how to use healthcare services to best support their loved one.

It sounds like a simple request, but navigating healthcare services can be challenging. The good news is there are lots of services out there to support your loved one, and the bad news is that sometimes you might not know about them, or if or when they’re appropriate for your spouse’s health needs. These questions can leave a lot of caregivers feeling frustrated, uncertain, and lost.

So, what can you do to ease the challenges of navigating health care services? While there’s no bullet proof answer, we have some suggestions that can greatly help.

  1. Make a list. When a question pops in to your mind, write it down, and take it with you to your loved one’s next doctor’s appointment. Write down the answers during the appointments so you don’t forget and you’re able to refer to what you’ve learned after. Doctor’s appointments can be so rushed, and it’s very common for people to leave wishing they’d asked about something that slipped their mind. Making and keeping a list can be very helpful to prevent this from happening.
  2. Do some research. Find out about the roles that different healthcare providers play so that you’re better able to direct your questions to the most helpful person. If someone has suggested an alternative therapy or some extra help such as a overnight respite or physiotherapy, spend some time reading about how those services work, and write down your questions.
  3. Ask questions. Spend some time with your loved one discussing their concerns and queries and yours, and then be prepared to ask questions. If you’re considering accessing respite services, there will likely be facility tours available to you and your care partner. If you’re connecting with a new health care provider, an intake appointment is a great time to ask any questions you might have about how their services will work with others your spouse is currently accessing. Make sure to also ask the pharmacist any questions you might have about medication interactions or potential side effects from a new prescription.

NSCR’s Caregiver Support Program is offering a free workshop all about Navigating Healthcare Services on Wednesday, January 16th 2019 from 1:30-3PM at Silver Harbour Activity Centre (144 22nd Street, N. Vancouver). The workshop will cover: home and community care, adult day programs, mental health services, residential care options, palliative care services, and preventing caregiver burnout. If you’d like to learn more about navigating the healthcare system, this is a wonderful opportunity. To register or ask questions, email Karyn:

What has helped you when it comes to navigating healthcare services with your care partner? We’d love to read your tips in our comments!

Cassandra Van Dyck