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Partnering with Your Doctor

Thursday June 26, 2014

While caring for your loved one, there will be times that you will need to consult with your loved one’s physician for a variety of reasons. Visits to see a physician may be an overwhelming experience for your loved one and may cause anxiety, which can make the appointment not go so well. It is important that your appointments be as productive as possible so that you can get your questions answered and make the most of your time with the doctor. The following are tips that we hope will make future appointments less stressful and much more successful.

Preparing for the Appointment

Make the appointment at the best time of day for your loved one. Consider when waiting times might be shortest. Ask the person you schedule the appointment with what time of day the waiting room is least likely to be crowded.

Consider parking, office location, and how much time you’ll need to get to the appointment. If the distance from parking to waiting room is quite far, it might be easiest to bring a light-weight wheelchair to transport your loved one, rather than relying on their usual walker or cane. Or you might ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to drive, so you and your loved one can be dropped off at the front door. If the office is located in larger complex or hospital, valet parking might be available (just be sure to bring small bills to pay for the valet parking). Budget extra time, so you don’t have to rush.

Things to Bring with you to the Appointment

List of current medications – both prescription and over the counter. Be sure to include dosage, name of prescribing doctor, and a very brief explanation for why your loved one takes that medicine. We’ve included an example medication log. Feel free to use this form to record your loved one’s medication, or use it as a guideline to create your own:

Medication List Template

Medical history and list of diagnoses and allergies.

List of questions, concerns, and changes. If you write these things down as you notice them, you’ll be more likely to remember and bring it up during the appointment.

Something to write with and something to write on for note taking during the appointment. A lot can be discussed during a doctor’s appointment. It may be difficult to remember everything. Take notes, so you won’t have to worry about trying to remember all that is said.

During the Appointment

Set a tone of respect. Include your loved one in the conversation. Your loved one wants and needs to feel respected and included. If you address your loved one with respect, any health professionals you encounter may be more inclined to follow your example.

Along those same lines, don’t talk about your loved as if he or she isn’t there. It can feel like you are tattling and create bad feelings. Instead, prepare a brief yet descriptive list of concerns and give it to the receptionist with a note for it to be given to the doctor before the appointment. The doctor won’t read 3 pages, so prioritize. Keep it to one page. Use bullet points. You can also excuse yourself to the restroom to very briefly talk with a nurse in the hallway.

Note any changes that have occurred and any new symptoms, and be specific. Instead of saying, “He hasn’t been sleeping well;” say, “For the past two weeks, he has been sleeping about 3 hours each night. When he isn’t sleeping, he paces around the house.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to ask for explanations. You are the best advocate for your loved one and yourself.

  • If you don’t understand a term, ask for clarification.
  • If a doctor orders a test, and you don’t understand why, ask for the doctor to explain the test and why it was ordered. Ask for copies of test results.
  • If medication is prescribed, ask about side effects, how long the doctor expects your loved one to be taking that medication, how long the medicine will take to start working, what to do if the medicine doesn’t work.
  • And lastly, ask when the next appointment should be.

After the Appointment

Follow the doctor’s recommendations. If a doctor asks you to try a new medication or make an appointment with a specialist, etc., really try to follow his or her instructions.