May 292012

Elderly Parents and Their Doctor: How to have a more effective visit:

1. Leave your cell phone in your vehicle. You do not need it in the doctor’s office. The people in the waiting room do not want to hear your conversation. And please do not be one of those people who will answer their phone while the nurse is getting your blood pressure or the doctor is trying to talk with you and/or your parent.

2. Write down your question’s and concern’s ahead of time. Do not rely on your memory. Do not be afraid to ask your questions even if the doctor seems to be in a hurry. You might also ask the nurse some questions. If he or she can not answer them, they will tell you to ask the doctor but chances are they can answer some of them.

3. Tell the nurse and the doctor all the concerns you have at the start of the visit. (Again, write them down.) Different symptoms may be related or not. By knowing all your problems the doctor can prioritize.

4. If your doctor ask you how you are doing the proper response is not, “You tell me.” No one knows how you feel but you. It is up to you to tell the doctor how you feel. In the case of a parent who can’t communicate, it is up to you to tell the doctor how they are doing. You are with them every day, you notice any changes.

5. Describe your symptoms clearly using descriptive words even if you think it sounds weird. How long have you or your parent had this symptom? How severe is it? Does it interfere with your ability to eat, sleep, work, or perform any normal activities?

6. If you have expectations, state them up front also. Sometimes you may be right on target, other times you may need some education.

7. Tell the truth. If your elderly parent drinks two six-packs of beer every night, or uses illegal drugs, these are a few of the health risks their doctor needs to know about. If do not feel you can trust their doctor with this information, find a doctor you do trust.

8. Bring all medications and supplements, or a list of them, to each doctor visit. Bring the ones actually being taken and remember those that are only as needed (or prn in medspeak). If the doctor prescribed a medication and you stopped giving it, let him know. (Actually, you should have called him first to before stopping the medicine). For instance if you stopped taking potassium because it was burning your stomach, the doctor may need to change you blood pressure medication.

9. Make sure you doctor knows every doctor your parent is seeing. This enables them to share test results and treatment plans, prevents duplicate or conflicting medication prescriptions as well as duplicate tests.

10. Bring a record of your parent’s medical history and any medical records you may have such as test results or images from scans or x-rays. (I don’t get copies of all my mother’s labs and tests unless something is really weird. But if we are going to a specialist, even though her doctor’s office will fax the information, I get a copy.)

11. Don’t be afraid to disagree with your doctor. If they are recommending a medication and you do not want to take it, tell him and tell him why. If the medication is too expensive there maybe less expensive alternatives. If you think your parent needs to see a specialist, say so.

12. Do what the doctor tells you to do, take the medication he tells you to take! There is nothing more frustrating than the person who keeps coming to the doctor with numerous complaints but will not take their medication because they do not like to take pills. Why are you wasting their time and your money?


  3 Responses to “12 Do’s and Don’t's For Doctor’s Visits”

  1. Suzanne,
    great list of things to do and not do. O am always frustrated with myself when I leave the doctor’s office and the remember to tell him something. So – write it down. And also the point you make that we are the only ones that know how we feel – so we do our best to explain. Thank you.

  2. Suzanne, that is such a great list! I must admit I don’t do a fraction of all that – but then I’m lucky and don’t normally have anything major for either me or a parent. I learnt a lot. Your articles always have fabulous information, thanks!

  3. I always forget #2, I rely on my memory a bit too much, thank you for the reminder!

    Mark Hogan

    Subtle Influence

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