Getting The Most From Senior Health Care Doctor Visits

November 15, 2019


Have you ever experienced the frustration of leaving a doctor’s appointment and realizing that you forgot to share vital information regarding changes in your health and ask the related questions you wanted answers to? We have all been there at one time or another. The reasons this occurs, are; during a doctor’s appointment, doctors are often pressed for time and try to be as efficient as possible to address items in our files from our last visit along with any specific reasons for our current visit. When the doctor asks if we have any questions, we often draw a blank. We may feel nervous, pressured, distracted, or perhaps feel fine in the moment and forget the very things that we wanted to discuss. Caregivers and/or family members can assist with transportation to and from doctor visits as well as following these suggestions to help ensure comprehensive health care for seniors.

Health issues are complex and can be overwhelming. Here are a few simple steps you can take to get the most from your own or your senior loved one’s doctor visits.

  1. Keep a health journal at home with dates and symptoms or conditions as they occur. Use a notepad or memos in a handheld device to record pertinent information as it occurs or as you think of it in advance of the appointment. Include records of physical activities that may have had an effect on your health, dietary plans being followed, medications, supplements, and prescriptions being taken, events and experiences that may have been stressful or pleasant and joyful, any changes in; appetite, energy levels, bodily functions, and any other concerns you may have regarding your or your aging senior’s health and well-being.
  2. Write down questions you may have regarding any symptoms or changes in your health you’d like to ask the doctor, no matter if you think they’re silly or may not be important.
  3. Make sure to take your journal or memo records with you so you can share them with the doctor at the visit. Check off your questions as you ask them and write down brief answers to your questions while your there. When family members ask what the doctor had to say, you’ll be prepared to share the information. You can also ask for any handouts or additional information related to the topic(s) of concern to read at home at your leisure.

Below are thirteen general questions suggested by Sun Health Communities publication to ask at your doctor visit during regular health checkups, during an illness, or during an injury occurrence so you leave feeling informed and empowered.

Regular checkups:

Regular checkups ensure you are healthy, but they also offer you the opportunity to discuss any concerns. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:

  • Are there any vaccines I should receive, such as vaccines for the flu, pneumonia or shingles?
    Vaccines help prevent viral infections, which can lead to serious complications.
  • Do you recommend any vitamins or supplements?
    Most vitamins and minerals can be consumed through a well-rounded, healthy diet. But since every person’s lifestyle and diet is different, your doctor may recommend that you take extra vitamins.
  • What is my blood pressure?
    It’s important for you to know your blood pressure, even if it is in the normal range.
  • Is there anything you would like me to work on or focus on before our next visit?
    Your doctor may be concerned about your weight, your activity level or any number of issues. This opens the door to discussing any preventive measures you may be able to take.

Appointments when you are ill, injured, or concerned:

These types of appointments can be stressful because you’re looking for answers and just want to feel better. When people are stressed, they may forget to ask questions until it’s too late. Here are a few inquiries to use as a guideline for discussion:

  • What do you think may be causing my problem?
    This question is different from “What is my diagnosis?” Some doctors may tell you what is wrong, but not what may have caused it. This helps you better understand your situation and prevent a relapse.
  • What are these tests for?
    When your doctor orders tests, you should know why and what the tests will show. By understanding the tests, you can have a more productive conversation once results are in.
  • Do I need any special preparation for the tests?
    For many tests, you simply need to show up. Other tests require preparation, such as fasting for several hours beforehand. Make sure you fully understand the rules so you don’t inadvertently do something that throws off the results.
  • What is the next step after these tests?
    In some situations, the tests will lead to a diagnosis and treatment. In other cases, tests will lead to further tests. An answer to this question will help you prepare for what’s next.
  • How does this medication, treatment or procedure work?
    If your doctor orders or prescribes a treatment, ask them to describe how it works and how it will affect your body. This way you know when you’re experiencing expected side effects versus a negative reaction.
  • How long does this treatment last?
    Some illnesses, like infections, may be treated within days. Other concerns require long-term or continuous treatments.
  • Are there any alternative treatment options?
    There may be other ways to treat your illness. Find out your options and discuss with your doctor the best treatment for your needs.
  • Will this treatment be affected by or have an effect on medications I am already taking? If you see more than one doctor, it’s possible that they are not aware of other treatments you are undergoing. It’s important that all your doctors are in the loop so they don’t prescribe you something that will negatively react with another drug or treatment.
  • What should I do if I feel worse?
    If you experience side effects from a treatment or your illness gets worse, you need to know what to do or where to go.

Paying close attention to your health is one of the most important ways to ensure your retirement is enjoyable. Learn more about how today’s seniors are enjoying retirement with a copy of our free guide. Get your copy here: Aging in Place: A Popular Trend for a New Generation of Seniors.

When health concerns arise or during regular health check-ups, it’s important for seniors to share vital information about our symptoms, conditions, health practices, supplements, and medications when speaking with our primary care physicians in order to make sure we or our aging loved one, receive the best and most comprehensive care.  By keeping a health journal or memo of notes on current health issues, concerns, and questions, we can make sure we get the most from our doctor visits, get answers to our health and medical questions, and are able to provide information to our loved ones when they ask. Family members or professional caregivers from Happy at Home can help with doctor visits by recording pertinent information and questions to share with the doctor as well as jotting down the answers and recommendations provided by the doctor regarding diagnosis and treatment of our aging senior’s health conditions.