Make the Most of Your Doctor Appointment
Bring Lists of Your Questions and Current Medications
Have you ever felt rushed by the doctor when sitting in on an appointment with your elderly relative? Chances are the physician felt rushed too. These days everyone understands that there is limited time to review the details a physician needs to diagnose and treat problems. To make the most of each visit, it is important to prepare ahead of time.
Write down your three or four most important questions. The physician will not be able to answer a list of ten questions in a regular clinic visit.
If the patient is seeing the physician for the first time, bring pill bottles with you, or a complete list of all current medications and their dosages, including the over-the-counter medications.
Be ready to fill in the details of the history of the patient's problem. Physicians often rely on caregivers to assist them in communicating with a frail or elderly patient.
Sit down with the patient ahead of time and go through the questions outlined in the next section to create a story or account of the problem.
Physicians are taught that the most important element in making an accurate diagnosis is eliciting an accurate history, or story, of the problem or symptom. Although it may seem to the patient that a thorough physical examination would be the most important part of a clinic visit, physicians know that taking an accurate history is 90 percent of making the correct diagnosis.
To use the visit time most efficiently, bring the information with you that the physician is likely to request. By being able to quickly and accurately go through the following list of common questions physicians use to obtain a history, you increase the odds of leaving your doctor's office feeling cared for rather than frustrated:
When did the new problem or symptom begin?
Was the onset of the problem abrupt or gradual (e.g., insidious)?
Did anything else important occur around the same time the new problem began? For example, had the patient just started taking a new medication, had a recent fall, had another illness, or experienced a new stress or death in the family?
Has this problem occurred previously (e.g., months or years ago), and if so, did anything seem to bring it on? Was the problem treated previously, and how did the patient respond to the treatment?
Does anything seem to bring the problem on (e.g., eating, climbing stairs, lying down, taking medication)?
What makes the problem or symptom worse, and what makes it better (e.g., medication, position, rest)?
What medication, if any, has the patient already been taking to try to treat this problem, and was it effective? Include all over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) aspirin, ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil), antacids, and laxatives.
What other medications is the patient taking?
For certain problems, the physician may also want to know if anyone else in the immediate family has the same condition.