Monday, January 14, 2008

Making the Most of Doctor Visits

If you go with your parent to see the doctor, here are a few tips that will help you be an ally and advocate:

Bring a prioritized list of questions and take notes on what the doctor recommends. Both can be helpful later, either to give information to the primary caregiver, or to remind your parent what the doctor said.

Before the appointment, ask your parent, the primary caregiver, and your siblings if they have any questions or concerns they would like you to bring up.

Bring a list of ALL medications your parent is taking, both prescription and over-the-counter, and include dosage and schedule (if your parent sees several different doctors one may not necessarily know what another has prescribed).

Tell the doctor about what your loved one used to do, but can no longer do. Sometimes patients come to accept a certain level of disability, particularly if it's the result of a condition that has come on slowly. For example, if she used to garden or knit, but her hands and fingers ache, these are things you should tell the doctor. If you don't share these problems with the doctor, she may miss out on treatments.

When the doctor asks a question, do not answer for your parent unless you have been asked to do so. Always talk to the doctor and to your parent.

Be active during the doctor visit. Take notes and ask questions if you don't agree or don't understand.

Tell the doctor if a treatment or medicine isn't working and ask for something different.

Ask the doctor to discuss other options if he or she saysa test or procedure are needed and you or your parent don't think you it's needed.

Get a second opinion from another doctor if you don't agree with what the doctor is telling you. Find out if your parent's health plan will pay for the cost of getting a second opinion.

• Respect your parent’s privacy, and leave the room when necessary.

• Ask the doctor if she or he can recommend community resources that might be helpful.