Caregiving can be a guessing game at times. You may find yourself in some awkward situations and wonder whether you are stepping on your loved one’s toes or being assertive enough. As the link between the person you’re caring for and their medical providers, communicating effectively is vital. That entails seeing all sides of a situation, paying attention to details and being sensitive enough to recognize emotional, as well as physical, symptoms.

Caregiver communication starts with being an active participant

Remember, effective caregiver communication means being more than an observer. The person in your care may be too exhausted, in too much pain or too sick to always make a decision. That’s when you must go to bat for them by choosing the best option or calling the doctor when needed. Attend all medical appointments, even if the person in your care doesn’t want you to. Listening to and retaining information while sick is difficult; a caregiver is invaluable for keeping track of what doctors say and for asking questions.

Effective caregiver communication means keeping good records

Caregiver communication often involves talking with doctors on behalf of the person you’re caring for. Keeping a daily log of symptoms and experiences is the best way to accurately describe problems to the doctor. Giving information such as, “X medicine was given with Y food, and the result was upset stomach,” or, “for the past five days, pain was intolerable at 1 p.m.,” can help a doctor understand which treatment is working and which is not. Write everything down to ensure that no important details get forgotten and to identify patterns more clearly.

Clear up medical speak

Doctors use language that can be foreign to most of us. Effective caregiver communication starts with taking notes on what doctors, nurses and therapists say gives you a chance to digest the information and look up unfamiliar terms later, so you can fully understand what you’ve been told. This process also helps you educate yourself and formulate questions ahead of the next appointment, so you can go in prepared to make the most of the appointment time.

Communicate that you’re an advocate

Sometimes, keeping your loved one comfortable can mean speaking up so a doctor takes action. Don’t be afraid to directly and clearly communicate your loved one’s needs. But do stay calm while you advocate. Remember that you and the doctor both want what’s best for the person in your care.

Other times, advocacy can take a different form. If your loved one resists medical treatment or advice, communication with doctors and therapists is crucial. Don’t feel guilty for strategizing with the doctor on ways to get the patient to follow recommendations. As the bridge between medical caregivers and your loved one, you can look out for their best interests so they can get better or enjoy the best quality of life.

Talk openly about feelings

Aging or illness can elicit difficult feelings like anxiety and depression. Discussing your loved one’s feelings with them can help them open up to their doctor, as well. Talking about bad medical news is also hard, but the more openly you and your loved one can discuss it, the more you can make of the time you have together. Talking openly about wishes, hopes, fears and how you can best provide support is the most important conversation that a caregiver and patient can have.