Seven Smart Tips for Seniors When Talking to the Doctor
Doctors are busy people and their schedules are always full. That’s why the 15-minute patient visit has become ubiquitous in modern health care, particularly in the offices of primary care and family doctors.
This leaves little time for senior patients to discuss multiple health concerns during the appointment. While the length of time of doctor appointments may be decreasing, the quality of your visit doesn’t have to suffer because of it. At your next appointment, try the following seven helpful tips for seniors when talking to the doctor.
- Prepare for your appointment ahead of time. Unless you’ve been seeing the same family doctor for decades, it’s likely that your physician won’t possess an intimate knowledge of your past or present health status. For this very reason, it’s vital for you to arrive at your appointment both knowledgeable and ready to discuss your health with your doctor.
- Bring a list of all of your medications. On your list, note the dosage, time, and how you take each medication. Be specific. For example: I take 100 milligrams of X medication with water each day; one pill at 8 a.m. and the second pill at 8 p.m. Bring this document with you to your appointment so that your doctor can review it. Be sure to mention any side effects you’ve been experiencing and note which prescriptions you will need to have refilled. Record any recommendations that your doctor makes regarding changes to your medications or how to take them. At the end of your visit, review what you have written with your doctor to make sure that you are both on the same page.
- Come with an agenda and stick to it. A shortage of primary care physicians and overbooked appointments often means that your doctor will need to keep your appointment brief. Make the most of the time that you have with your physician. Know ahead of time what your most important health issues are to help ensure that each of these concerns gets addressed. When you set up your appointment initially, don’t be timid about asking for a longer appointment time if you feel that you’ll need more to discuss your health issue or treatment options.
- Mention any changes to your health. Changes in your hearing, balance, vision, or weight are all important. For example, a change in your overall weight can impact the dosage needed or side effects of a specific medication. Providing your doctor with this information will give him or her a more accurate picture of your overall health.
- Communicate your needs. If you require glasses or a hearing aid, make sure that you bring them with you to your appointment. You’ll want your vision and hearing to be as clear as possible. Missing critical information or mishearing how a medication should be taken could be dangerous to your health. Additionally, when you talk openly about your needs doing so allows your doctor’s office to accommodate them. You may need the doctor to write down certain information, allow time for you to take notes, or to speak at a slower pace.
- Bring along a friend or family member. It’s not uncommon for aging parents to bring along an adult child or friend to their doctor appointments. You should feel comfortable discussing personal and private information in front of this person. Your companion will serve as a second set of eyes and ears during your visit. He or she may remember different aspects of what the doctor said or remember to ask questions that you both intended to get answered. After your visit, you can discuss what the doctor said and recommended. If you feel like some information is too personal to share in front of your friend or family member, you can always ask them to leave the room for a moment while you speak privately with your doctor.
- Be honest. Discussing your health issues or sexual activity can feel invasive. Perhaps you feel reluctant to admitting to a fall, feeling depressed or discussing losses to your memory, hearing, or vision. However, being honest is the best way to ensure that your medical records offer a true reflection of your overall health. Being open and honest with your doctor will help him or her to make the best recommendations going forward.
Face-to-face time with doctors is often too brief, but a little preparation can make each visit more pleasant, informative, and productive. If you have questions about how to approach your next doctor’s appointment or if you need help locating medical resources in the area, feel free to contact us. Our compassionate, caring team is always happy to help.
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