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6 Tips for Seniors to Make the Most of a Doctor’s Appointment

An essential part of getting and staying healthy is seeing a physician regularly as well as when sick. When you do have an appointment, it’s also important to make the most of it by being prepared to help your doctor help you maximize your health and healthcare. Here are some great tips for seniors to make the most of your next doctor’s appointment.

  1. Plan and prioritize — Whether an appointment is for an annual checkup or a specific reason, it pays to prepare ahead of time for what you want to accomplish. For example, do you need any vaccinations or are you having problems with medications? Are you having trouble sleeping or is a known condition getting worse? Maybe you have noticed a decline in your ability to remember things or had a dizzy spell. Make a detailed list of symptoms, stressors, falls, or anything else that could signal a health concern.
  2. Bring an up-to-date list of all medications and supplements — Keeping your physician updated on all your medications is key to avoiding drug interactions. Since many seniors see more than one healthcare provider, this can quickly become a problem when one doctor isn’t aware of what another doctor has prescribed. It’s also important in the event of a medical emergency as hospital staff will also need to know exactly what medications you are taking and why. To help keep medications up to date, the free, downloadable Medication Checklist from the Caregiver Action Network makes it easy.
  3. Be honest — Everything you reveal about how you really feel can help your healthcare provider ensure you’re getting everything you need to stay healthy. Withholding information can only hurt you and deprive you of that help. It may be difficult to broach some embarrassing subjects like incontinence, sexual dysfunction, or substance abuse, but by putting everything on the table, your doctor can clear the way toward a cure or treatment plan. Just remember doctors have heard it all and will not judge or make assumptions. For more about talking to your doctor honestly, the Cedars Sinai blog, “How to Address Uncomfortable Topics with Your Doctor, can help.
  4. Ask questions — A doctor’s appointment often prompts questions that need to be answered to the patient’s satisfaction. Maybe the questions center around upcoming tests or new medications and possible side effects. Or perhaps you’re considering joining a gym or working out more often and aren’t sure if it’s safe. When there’s a new diagnosis, questions will likely include long- or-short term impacts, whether you need to see a specialist or what life changes should be considered. Even the simplest questions should be asked and answered so that you fully understand and are not confused.  Get a complete overview of what important questions to ask in the National Institute on Aging’s article, “What Should I Ask My Doctor During a Checkup?
  5. Bring a friend or family member — Many seniors are not well versed in medical jargon, are hard of hearing, or don’t speak or understand English well, causing them to miss out on critical information. Taking a trusted friend or relative along can help ensure that nothing is missed, and everything is understood before you leave. This is especially helpful when a senior is hard of hearing, has memory problems or needs to better understand a condition or disease they already have. In this way the doctor can be sure someone else is aware of the patient’s condition, treatment plans, and medication changes. The friend or relative can also take notes for future reference and be a go between with the doctor, if needed. More about sharing private health information can be found in, “A Patient’s Guide to the HIPAA Privacy Rule” from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  6. Don’t be afraid to find a new doctor — Like everyone, doctors have different personalities and styles. So, if a doctor is not a good fit, do not hesitate to search for one you are more comfortable with. Maybe they are too hurried or don’t seem to understand you, or perhaps you just haven’t connected and feel uncomfortable with them. Whatever the reason, it is essential to good healthcare that you trust and feel secure and satisfied with your doctor. When beginning your search, ask friends and family, and take advantage of the information in the article, “How to Find a Good Doctor.”

An excellent resource to use to prep for every doctor’s appointment is from The National Institute on Aging, which has prepared a printable handout titled, “Tips for Talking With Your Doctor” that can help keep track of questions, medications and more.

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