10 Tips for Great Doctor Appointments 4 Your Senior

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Info on how to prepare for doctor appointments for you or your senior. by francy Dickinson

George on his weekly out and about.

George on his weekly out and about.

Dear Francy: Mother was complaining for two weeks on how she was having bowel problems and a soreness in her rib cage…I made the doctor appointment. We go…then she says nothing! He asks her how she is and she says; “FINE”  I am so frustrated and mad that I wasted a day off work for an empty doctor appointment. HELP!

Hello!  Are you sure you are not living my life? I have been there and done that so many times that I sat down and went over all the steps that would give me quality time with busy doctors. We all can get scattered and forget, or not really ‘think’ about our body and what to ask the doctor. So here is a listing to help you never again feel cheated at a doctor’s office.

George is going to his memory clinic on Friday. We have had three appointments that have had to be cancelled, due to all sorts of things, so this time…we need to really go and hit the nail on the head. I am taking time to do all of these steps this week with George. I know this will help you. It has made my time at doctor’s offices go smooth and easy.I have even had doctors “thank me” for being so informative.

10 TIPS TO HELP YOU MAKE THAT DOCTOR APPOINTMENT INFORMATIVE:

  1. Quiet yourself and think about you/or your senior’s body. What has changed since the last time you were at the doctor’s office? Even if the doctor you are seeing is a foot specialist…write down your whole body changes. Doctors diagnose with detailed information. They are best when they know the most. Give them a list: slightly dizzy when I get up to go to the bathroom at night – gained 10 pounds and feel like candy is my best friend – allergy headaches that really bother me – my mouth is dry all the time, lately – my nails are breaking a lot – my hair is getting thinner. Go ahead. Sit and think about this, talk it over with your senior or spouse and write it down. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to share the information…this list could save a life.
  2. Write a letter to the doctor about your care giving elder. Just let the doctor know. I have written my letter for my husband’s friday memory clinic appointment. I have taken time to be quiet with myself and just write down his changes with his Alzheimer’s. I have had to insist on him getting out of bed, he only feels safe there. I have forced him to walk 10 min. in the hall – twice a day. His shuffling is so bad that I am very worried over him not walking at all and I would lose the ability to care for him. I even did a short video to show him on our tablet. I am not sleeping (see I talk about me too) I find my temper is getting short over the silly things he does. Now you go ahead do your letter and let it all flow out. Let the doctor know the things your senior has told you during the last couple of months. Write it down and give it to the check-in desk and ask the doctor to read it before he comes into the appointment. The doctor will be so grateful.
  3. Keep a list of things you hear on the radio, from friends or read online about the special medical problems you or your senior may have at this time. Maybe you heard a tip on supplements to help diabetes, or a special test on a new drug, or a place to go and join an experimental test. Write it down, so you can remember to ask the opinion of your own doctor before you proceed. Use his opinion to help you make your “own informed decision”  about treatment.
  4. Walk in the doctor’s office with an updated list of your medications. Keep this list on the computer or ask the doctor to print if off for you. You need to know each name of the medication, the amount, the time to take it, if it is taken with or without food, and what the medication is doing in your body. If you don’t know those things take a trip to the pharmacy and talk to them. You need to take pills that make sense to you and understand the reason you take them. That way you will be taking them on time, in a a daily manner. Many medications simply stop working if you take them 2 -5 times a week. So you may “pay” for a medication and then not take them properly or not understand that one medication may assist another. This is serious stuff. If you do not take your medications…then open your mouth and tell your doctor. He is assuming that you are taking it. So each time you walk in the door, he is trying to diagnosis you and if you do not have his prescriptions in your body chemistry…he is unknowingly making a mistake.
    This is important. KNOW YOUR MEDICATIONS AND TAKE THEM PROPERLY. If you forget to take them…find a way to remind yourself. There are cell phone apps that will do just that, or ask your care giver or family to call you…but take your medications!
  5. Be informed. I often go to the doctor with my sister because she tends to blank out when she is faced with the doctor’s answers to her questions or diagnosis.  I go and take notes. But now, we all have cell phones with recording buttons. When the doctor is starting to tell you what is wrong with you or how to treat it…have your record button ready…let the doctor know you are taping and push the button. Then you can play the information back for yourself or your family to review.
  6. Dress for success. OK you are going to the doctor, wear something that is easy to remove and put back on. Wear shoes that are not the heaviest you own because you will be weighted-in. Take off your coat before you get weighed and take note of your weight at the doctor’s office so you can go home and adjust your own scale. Also write down your blood pressure, if it is high you can then take it a few times at home to make sure that it does not stay in a high range. Blood pressure is best taken at lunch time…relaxed and repeated so the doctor can see the time frame of the numbers. Same with weight…weigh in the morning, twice a week and write it down in a notebook. When you go to the doctor you can show him your progress up or down over a time period so he can look for glues.
  7. Seasonal issues. Keep a green marker for your calendar journal to mark seasonal problems. Maybe you gain weight around the holidays…write it down. Maybe you have spring or fall allergies, write it down. So the next year…you can look at it and know that it is repeated and needs to be talked about with your doctor. Allergy medications have changed a lot in the last few years. Ask for help, runny noses may not be life threats, but they do keep you from going on walks for your health. Medications change and update…always ‘ask’ the doctor about new medications and if you can drop some that you are taking. All medications are changed just one at a time…so the doctor and you actually know what the reactions are for that one drug. Then you can make another change…so be patient. Maybe your weight has gone down and your diabetes pills or water pills are no longer needed. Do not marry your medications…think of them as fluid and up-datable. There is always a doctor that will give out medications just to keep you quiet…so make sure you “ask” why you are getting a medication and then do a little homework online to make sure it is something that you need and you are prepared for the side effects if they show.
  8. Can you relate to your doctor? If you are going to a doctor that does not talk to you, or you do not understand. Tell him, or change doctors. Your own, or your senior’s health is what life is about. You need to understand..that exercise is needed to help your knee or maybe you need to stay off of it…or cold not hot must be used. If you do not understand then you are not healing and it could effect the way you walk for the rest of your life. Its a big deal! Do not be afraid to make a change of a doctor, or to speak up!
  9. Use a calendar on the wall to remind you of all medical appointments. I like to cluster them. I have George do his appointments in the spring and the fall. So, in one month we see all his specialist doctors. Then the rest of the time…we only go to the doctor if he is unwell and needs extra help. This way I am not trying to take him around to appointments every month…or twice a week. My mother got too weak for doctor appointments…so I found a local doctor that would come and visit her at home. Working with a nurse practitioner is also a wonderful way to check-in quick with questions and not have to wait for appointments with a busy doctor.
    REMEMBER: ER visits are to be avoided. You can catch germs, get overly tired and they are expensive.  Make appointments and keep them. That way the flow of your life will be calmer.
  10. If you have come to a point in your life, or your senior’s life — that fighting a physical or extreme dementia condition- is simply too overwhelming. Then you need to tell your doctor that too. The doctor will discuss palliative care. That is where you are treated to keep you pain free and comfortable. You will be assigned a Hospice Care Team that will come to you and allow you to relax and adjust to the end of life journey. There is no reason to drag elders around to doctor appointments if they have issues that are beyond a medical cure. No matter what your income..Hospice is there for you. You or your senior deserves to have a wonderful team of caring nurses and helpers come to you…to keep your needs met and the pain or worry level down. It is always hard to make that decision, but once made the Hospice team really knows how to take over and keep the elder in-care…comforted and given good palliative care.
    NOTE: Medicare and insurance bill either your regular doctor or Hospice. So you do have to make an appointment and have a good truthful decision with your doctor for this change of care situation. You need to also remember to ask for a disability sticker for your car and understand the doctor needs to sign a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ agreement. I always try to remind you to get a Health Care Directive Form, signed and agreed on right away while the senior understands the issues.

I hope this will all be of help to you. Since I have kept my medication listing and added in the allergies that George has and his needs if he is put into the hospital on that same page….the doctor visits have been great. I express myself before the appointment and then the information is turned into the nurse at the check-in desk to attach to the file. The doctor then walks in the door, knowing what is going on and directs his attention and knowledge to help me and George make changes for the good in our daily lives. Some times there is no change, some times there is a medication change — other times there is just advice in how to make changes in our daily life to keep George as strong as he can be. Maybe we go to the Physical Therapist to help him get strong, maybe we have a respite to give me a break. All of the information that I share with the doctor, helps him make sound decisions that are based on our reality of life. I once told the doctor that a medication he prescribed was to hard for me to give four times a day. George has no memory and I can do morning and evening meds…but to add a few more during the day…means I have to remember things for me and for him. It was too much. The doctor said that was fine, he would change the medication to one that had a time release. You see how being honest helps everyone?

REVIEW:
*  Take time to review the body functions of yourself or your senior
*  Write down the information or changes
*  Be prepared with a list of medications that is complied from all the different doctors that prescribe to you
*  Be honest with yourself and the doctor

Thank you again for giving your time and love to your senior. Its a lonely world out there for care-givers. I appreciate you taking your time to share with me. I am here for you. Send me your questions and I will do my best to help. OH, I would really appreciate you signing up for this blog post…it will email it to you. I am doing less blogging because George’s Alzheimer’s is getting in advance stages and he needs more care. So the ups and down of my writing is easier for you if you just recieve the update in your email. Please add your email to the side bar and you will hear from me each time I write a posting….Thank you…and Blessings, francy