May 24, 2018
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Jot down your concerns before visiting doctor

By Carol Higgins Taylor

How often have you heard an older person say, “I am not really sure what I am supposed to do. I didn’t understand everything,” on returning from a medical appointment?

This is not uncommon. Often, physician’s appointments are short and before you know it, you’re out the door. And sometimes there is a lot of information to take in. That is why it is very important to be prepared for the visit.

While some seniors are adept at voicing concerns, others are uncomfortable speaking up – or their specific questions are forgotten once they’re ushered into the exam room. And to challenge a doctor, in any way, would be unthinkable.

I have heard from my grandmother a million times, “Well, he’s a doctor, he must know what’s best for me.”

This is not necessarily the case. In the days of specialists, advanced medications and shortened appointments, patients need to be proactive.

Gone are the days when the medical provider is alone in the care of a patient. Today partnership describes a solid patient-doctor relationship. Patients need to take active roles in their care, with the responsibility of good communication resting with both parties.

A doctor’s appointment averages 15 minutes, but there are some things you can do to make those precious minutes count.

Amy Cotton, nurse practitioner and geriatric specialist for Rosscare, offers some tips for getting the most out of your medical appointment:

. Prepare for your appointment by making a list of your concerns and questions. This is the best way to maximize the limited and valuable time you have with your health care provider and ensures you will remember everything you want to discuss.

. Take notes while your health care provider is talking to you. Don’t rely on your memory. Better yet, bring a friend or relative along to take notes or ask if you can tape record the visit. Small, handheld recorders are inexpensive and readily available.

. Schedule an appointment for first thing in the morning or right after lunch, when the medical office is less likely to be backed up.

. Bring medications that need to be refilled with you. Your health care provider can write a prescription on the spot. It’s faster and easier than trying to call in a renewal.

. If you are scheduled for a routine visit but have a certain issue to discuss, don’t wait until you arrive at the office. Call ahead and request a longer appointment with the health care provider if possible or set another appointment for that particular concern. This holds especially true for “check” visits.

Remember that if you are scheduled for a blood pressure check, you may not see your health care provider, but a medical office assistant instead, said Cotton, so don’t assume you’ll have time to discuss any concerns you have at this visit.

“Letting the health care provider know what your needs are helps ensure that you get those needs met,” said Cotton. “And above all, be honest about any issues you have and speak up if there is something you don’t understand. Your treatment depends on the information you provide the doctor.”

If you’ve done all you can do to be actively involved in your care and are still not getting the help you need, don’t be afraid to make a change, because the most important thing is your health.

To keep track of these appointments, treatments and medications, call EAAA to get your free Personal Health Journal, provided by the Senior Medicare Patrol program. These booklets can help you stay organized and are small enough to slip into a purse so you can take one with you to your next appointment.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800- 432-7812, e-mail or log on TTY 992-0150.

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