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Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People



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How well you and your doctor talk to each other is one of the most important parts of getting good health care. Unfortunately, this isn't always easy. It takes time and effort on your part as well as your doctor's.

In the past, the doctor typically took the lead and the patient followed. Today, a good patient-doctor relationship is more of a partnership, with both patient and doctor working together to solve medical problems and maintain the patient's good health.

This means asking questions if the doctor's explanations or instructions are unclear, bringing up problems even if the doctor doesn't ask, and letting the doctor know when a treatment isn't working. Taking an active role in your health care puts the responsibility for good communication on both you and your doctor.

Table of Contents

Why Does It Matter? Choosing a Doctor You Can Talk to

Decide what you are looking for in a doctor
Identify several possible doctors
Consult reference sources
Learn more about the doctors you are considering
Make a choice

What Can I Do? Tips for Good Communication

Getting Ready for Your Appointment
Be prepared: make a list of your concerns
Make sure you can see and hear as well as possible
Consider bringing a family member or friend
Plan to update the doctor

Sharing Information With Your Doctor
Be honest
Stick to the point
Ask questions
Share your point of view

Getting Information From Your Doctor and Other Health Professionals
Take notes
Get written or recorded information
Remember that doctors don't know everything
Talk to other members of the health care team

Where Do I Begin? Getting Started With a New Doctor

Learn the basics of the office
Share your medical history
Give information about your medications
Tell the doctor about your habits

What Should I say? Talking About Your Health

Preventing Disease and Disability
Sharing Any Symptoms
Learning More About Medical Tests
Discussing Your Diagnosis and What You Can Expect
Talking About Treatments
Making the Most of Medications
Changing Your Daily Habits
Seeing Specialists
If You Are Hospitalized
If You Have to go to the Emergency Room

Can I Really Talk About That? Discussing Sensitive Subjects

Grief, mourning, and depression
Memory problems
Care in the event of a serious illness
Problems with family
Feeling unhappy with your doctor

Who Else Will Help? Involving Your Family and Friends

What's Next? Some Closing Thoughts

Getting More Information

Additional Resources

National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
Prepared by the National Institutes on Aging December 1994
This book was developed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, to help older people communicate successfully with their doctors. The mission of the NIA is to promote healthy aging by conducting and supporting biomedical, social, and behavioral research and public education.



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