Aging seniors often find doctor visits intimidating on a number of levels.
- They are from an era where doctors were seldom questioned therefore asking questions or requesting another opinion can be daunting.
- Some doctors lack experience with the elderly or tend to approach everyone at every age in the same manner.
- An aging senior could be fearful about hearing bad news or being given restrictions.
- If they are easily confused or forgetful, the information coming at them might be remembered in whole, in part or not at all.
- Some seniors are unwilling to admit they haven’t heard some of the words or don’t understand the meaning of medical words or phrases.
- The experience of just getting to the doctor can be exhausting and overwhelming beginning with the anticipation days in advance.
Having a buddy accompany an aging senior to doctor appointments can be enormously helpful and this is a role for which an adult child is perfectly suited. Not only does the adult child have a vested interest in keeping tabs on the health of their aging parent but they can be the point of connection for the entire family or circle of friends who support the senior. The following are some tips for adults who become appointment buddies:
A few days in advance of the appointment
- Map the route to the doctor’s office taking note of drop off and parking areas. Mobility issues will determine what works best. Note: this can be done via Google Maps – zoom right in and use Street View.
- Visit the senior and arrange the pickup time, marking it on their calendar.
- Make notes about any questions or concerns the senior has that should be discussed with the doctor.
- Organize health cards, insurance documents and any other paperwork that needs to be brought to the appointment.
- Complete or review a list of medications the senior takes. If you don’t have one already started, check out The Oldish template. Print out or email a copy for the patient record.
At the appointment
- Make sure that the patient file notes the senior’s permission for you to sit in on the discussions and be the primary contact.
- Listen as the doctor and patient have their discussion, taking notes along the way for future reference.
- Make sure the questions and concerns in your notes are addressed and that you have complete, understandable answers.
- Give the doctor the copy of the medication list and request a review – remember that doctors aren’t always aware of what patients are taking beyond prescriptions.
- Confirm that you have understood and recorded any diagnoses, recommendations, next steps, referrals and future appointments.
After the appointment
- Review the information received at the appointment. This may take place immediately afterward or perhaps another day depending on how tired the senior is.
- Ask what they recall, fill in blanks for them, make sure they understand by having them repeat what you say back to you.
- Make note of any questions or concerns for the next visit.
- Organize medications if necessary.
- Make note of future appointments on their calendar.
Being an appointment buddy is a terrific way to contribute to the well-being of an aging parent. Not only is the stress and worry about getting to the appointment relieved, but they have someone they can count on to remember their questions and concerns as well as someone to lean on. Adult children benefit by staying in the loop about their parent’s health not to mention the opportunity for a one on one visit including, perhaps, a comforting cup of tea together once the appointment is finished.