Can I Do?
Tips for Good
A basic plan
can help you communicate better with your doctor, whether you are starting
with a new doctor or continuing with the doctor you've been visiting.
The following tips can help you and your doctor build a partnership.
Ready for Your Appointment
make a list of your concerns--Before going to the doctor, make a list
of what you want to discuss . For example, are you having a new symptom
you want to tell the doctor about? Did you want to get a flu shot or pneumonia
vaccine? If you have more than a few items to discuss, put them in order
so you are sure to ask about the most important ones first. Take along
any information the doctor or staff may need such as insurance cards,
names of your other doctors, or your medical records. Some doctors suggest
you put all your medicines in a bag and bring them with you, others recommend
bringing a list of medications you take.
you can see and hear as well as possible --Many older people use glasses
or need aids for hearing. Remember to take your eyeglasses to the doctor's
visit. If you have a hearing aid, make sure that it is working well, and
wear it. Let the doctor and staff know if you have a hard time seeing
or hearing. For example, you may want to say, "My hearing makes it
hard to understand everything you're saying. It helps a lot when you speak
bringing a family member or friend --Sometimes it is helpful to bring
a family member or close friend with you. Let your family member or friend
know in advance what you want from your visit. The person can remind you
what you planned to discuss with the doctor if you forget, and can help
you remember what the doctor said.
Plan to update
the doctor--Think of any important information you need to share with
your doctor about things that have happened since your last visit. If
you have been treated in the emergency room, tell the doctor right away.
Mention any changes you have noticed in your appetite, weight, sleep,
or energy level. Also tell the doctor about any recent changes in the
medication you take or the effect it has had on you.
may ask you how your life is going. This isn't just polite talk or an
attempt to be nosy. Information about what's happening in your life may
be useful medically. Let the doctor know about any major changes or stresses
in your life, such as a divorce or the death of a loved one. You don't
have to go into detail; you may just want to say something like, "I
thought it might be helpful for you to know that my sister passed away
since my last visit with you," or "I had to sell my home and
move in with my daughter."
Getting Ready for Your Appointment
prepared: make a list of concerns.
sure you can see and hear as well as possible.
bringing a family member or friend.
to update the doctor.
Information With Your Doctor
is tempting to say what you think the doctor wants to hear; for example,
that you smoke less or eat a more balanced diet than you really do. While
this is natural, it's not in your best interest. Your doctor can give
you the best treatment only if you say what is really going on.
the point--Although your doctor might like to talk with you at length,
each patient is given a limited amount of time. To make the best use of
your time, stick to the point. Give the doctor a brief description of
the symptom, when it started, how often it happens, and if it is getting
worse or better.
questions is key to getting what you want from the visit. If you don't
ask questions, your doctor may think that you understand why he or she
is sending you for a test or that you don't want more information. Ask
questions when you don't know the meaning of a word (like aneurysm, hypertension,
or infarct) or when instructions aren't clear (e.g., does taking medicine
with food mean before, during, or after a meal?). You might say, "I
want to make sure I understand. Could you explain that a little further?"
It may help to repeat what you think the doctor means back in your own
words and ask, "Is this correct?" If you are worried about cost,
point of view--Your doctor needs to know what's working and what's
not. He or she can't read your mind, so it is important for you to share
your point of view . Say if you feel rushed, worried, or uncomfortable.
Try to voice your feelings in a positive way. For example, "I know
you have many patients to see, but I'm really worried about this. I'd
feel much better if we could talk about it a little more." If necessary,
you can offer to return for a second visit to discuss your concerns.
Sharing Information With Your Doctor
to the point.
your point of view.
Information From Your Doctor and Other Health Professionals
can be difficult to remember what the doctor says, so take along a note
pad and pencil and write down the main points, or ask the doctor to write
them down for you. If you can't write while the doctor is talking to you,
make notes in the waiting room after the visit. Or, bring a tape recorder
along, and (with the doctor's permission) record what is said. Recording
is especially helpful if you want to share the details of the visit with
or recorded information--Whenever possible, have the doctor or staff
provide written advice and instructions. Ask if your doctor has any brochures,
cassette tapes, or videotapes about your health conditions or treatments.
For example, if your doctor says that your blood pressure is high, he
or she may give you brochures explaining what causes high blood pressure
and what you can do about it. Some doctors have videocassette recorders
for viewing tapes in their offices. Ask the doctor to recommend other
sources, such as public libraries, nonprofit organizations, and government
agencies, which may have written or recorded materials you can use.
doctors don't know everything--Even the best doctor may be unable
to answer some questions. There still is much we don't know about the
human body, the aging process, and disease. Most doctors will tell you
when they don't have answers. They also may help you find the information
you need or refer you to a specialist. If a doctor regularly brushes off
your questions or symptoms as simply part of aging, think about looking
for another doctor.
Talk to other
members of the health care team --Today, health care is a team effort.
Other professionals, including nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists,
and occupational or physical therapists, play an active role in your health
care. These professionals may be able to take more time with you.
Getting Information From Your Doctor and Other Health Professionals
written or recorded information.
that doctors don't know everything.
to other members of the health care team.
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