`Want me to go with you to your doctor`s appointment?` An odd question, I thought. I was in my 40`s at the time. Why did I need someone with me?
`So what pill changes did the doctor give you this time, dad?` I asked him. `Well, I remember most of it. I forget the name of the new one. And he lowered something else.` `Did you ask about that pain you’ve been having?` `No, I forgot. `
I`ve told my own, wonderful doctor, who is older than I am by about ten years, that she can`t retire until after I`m gone. I think that highly of her, and honestly have never had such a terrific doctor. I tell her things I haven`t told my closest friends.
And yet, as comfortable as I am with her, when I have a difficult situation, I`ll ask my housemate to go with me. I`m nervous about whatever my health issue is at the time. When I’m nervous, I don’t pay attention as well.
It`s harder to listen when you`re nervous, right? We don`t hear everything that`s said. The words can be a blur. We hear what we want to hear. And then we walk out and we`ve got only half the story, half the details ` and few of the answers to questions our friends or family will ask us about. Those answers we need to know if we`re talking good care of ourselves.
I`ve learned some great tips for getting organized for Dr.`s appointments over the years. I’ve learned them from my experience, from clients with medical/health issues, and from going to lots of appointments with older family members.
These tips apply to you, to the one you are accompanying (parent, child, grandchild) – and as I think of it, also to your cats/dogs/pet friends.
6 tips to Get Ready for Your Appointments
The questions: Organize and write down your questions in a notebook, days before the appointment. We think more clearly when we’re not in the thick of it. The list will remind you of questions you had awhile ago. If you get nervous about discussing your health, your list will pull you through.
The answers: Take time during or after the appointment to write down answers to the questions you’ve asked. When you get back in the car after the appointment, don`t turn on the engine; write down your notes while the information is still fresh. You`ll get far more detail written down, than waiting until you’ve driven all the way home. And when you get home, a million other things will take your attention.
Take medications? Keep a list with you at all times of what you take, doses, and when. Update it when anything changes, but KEEP older versions. Older versions are useful when something changes: you lose weight, you develop diabetes, or you notice a change in your habits or health. You can return to the last list to figure out what`s changed in your meds that may be causing an issue for you now.
You, as the observer of you: If something odd (physical, mental) has been happening to you lately, start taking notes. You are your own best observer, and those notes will give many clues to your doctor to help resolve the issue. Without the details, how can anyone solve the right problem?
And your other observer: That said, it is also very useful to have a second person with you, a companion, someone you live with, someone you talk to frequently. It’s hard to observe ourselves objectively right? That’s what this person is there for.
Or to give you courage to ask that one, really difficult question. And definitely your friend’s there to help you hear what’s really been said. Even better if your friend has been in the medical field, like my housemate!
You as an advocate: Realize and accept that YOU are the only one know how it feels to be in your body. You`re the most important person to sense differences, particularly over time. Your doctor doesn’t see you often enough. Your partner/spouse doesn’t live IN your body. Only you know. How you feel is critically important to share.
If you are your parent or child`s advocate in the health care/mental health system, focus on that word `advocate.` If he/she cannot or doesn’t know how to advocate for him or herself, all of the above tips are for you to adopt and use on his or her behalf.
I’ve had great experiences and so has my family with our doctors. When I use `advocate,` I simply mean that you know yourself, or your parent or child the best. You live with or nearly live with the person. You`ve known or him or her your whole life. How could anyone else know and advocate for that person as well as you can. It`s one of the most important volunteer jobs you`ll ever have.
I`d love to hear other tips for getting your medical/mental health organized, so that we can share beyond ourselves.