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Each doctor’s visit with your loved one isn’t just a routine appointment—look at it as a good opportunity to ensure their well-being and address any health concerns that have arisen since your last visit. As a caregiver, your company during these visits is invaluable, because you bring unique support and insights into your loved one’s health journey. 

In this article, we delve into the significance of being an active participant during these appointments and show you how to prepare for a doctor’s visit. By preparing yourself with the right information and tools, you can become an effective advocate for your loved one’s health. Let’s explore the steps to take before and during the appointment, so you can make the most out of every moment with the healthcare professional. Let’s dive in.

Before the Visit: Talk with Your Loved One

Before you head to a doctor’s appointment, it’s important to discuss the upcoming visit. What does your loved one want to talk about? Do they have any new symptoms, pains, or questions? 

By taking the time to prepare for your visit together, you can ensure you’re on the same page about what’s to come and how to best use the time with the medical professional.

Pro tip: Take notes! When speaking with your loved one about their desires, take notes on a pad or on your phone to ensure you don’t forget your discussion when you’re in the hot seat at the doctor’s office.

Before the Visit: Prepare Documents & Supplies

To get the most out of the few precious minutes you have with the doctor, make sure you’re organized. Here are some of the documents you should prepare:

  • Insurance cards. Are your loved one’s insurance cards packed and ready to go? If the doctor already has them on file this may not be necessary, but it’s better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.
  • Medical history. Your family medical history matters – it can identify if your loved one has a higher-than-normal chance of having common disorders, like diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and more. The NIH (National Institute of Health) has a worksheet here for you to help.
  • Prescriptions. Make a list of the prescription names, prescribed dosages, vitamins, herbal remedies, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs your loved one takes. The NIH (National Institute of Health) has a worksheet here that you can use to help.
  • Medical aids. Something as simple as a pair of glasses, hearing aid, or cane — don’t forget any medical aid devices they use and make note of any recent changes in vision, hearing, breathing, or mobility. This is important information to share with a doctor, as the cause is not always as simple as “aging” — better to mention it than ignore it.

Before the Visit: Make a List of Questions

If you are with your loved one often, there are things you may have picked up on that are worth mentioning. Even if your conversation with your loved one didn’t explicitly cover them. These things may include:

  • Symptoms you’ve noticed/tracked. Is there anything your loved one has complained about more frequently? Has anything worried you lately? Are you noticing changes in their social skills, driving, or eating habits? These types of things are great for you to ask the doctor or nurse (though you may want to do it in a private moment).
  • Questions you have. As a caregiver, are you managing tasks or expected to start managing tasks on your loved one’s behalf that you feel unprepared to handle? These are great topics to bring up with the doctor, as they can help to train you or point you in the right direction for proper training on the topic.

At the Appointment: Prepare to Take Notes

  • Take notes. As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to take notes. If everything is moving quickly, ask if you can record so you can come back to their advice at a later date.
  • Ask your questions. Bring the list of questions you prepared, starting with the most important ones just in case you run out of time. Write down as much as you can (as we mentioned in the previous bullet point). No matter how much you think you’ll remember, it’s very likely you won’t be able to recall everything in a few days – writing it down helps both you and your loved one remember what the doctor said. It also gives you a record you can use to share with future caregivers, nurses, or doctors. 

At the Appointment: Advocate for Your Loved One

Your doctor has a “cliff notes” version of all prior encounters you’ve had together. It’s incomplete and, even if they remember you and your loved one, they very likely don’t remember all the details of your last visit(s). They also see hundreds of patients each month, and you’ve likely seen other doctors since your last visit. 

Long story short, your loved one needs an advocate. Someone willing to fill the doctor in, correct missing information, be persistent about the severity of certain symptoms, and remember to get answers to all the questions you had (it can be easy to forget to come back to a question if you asked it, but the conversation changed direction).

Important note: it’s very easy to get into a conversation with the doctor that excludes your loved one. Try your best not to do this. Your loved one deserves an equal position in the conversation and to be heard. They also deserve privacy, so if they request a moment alone with the doctor, please adhere to their request and step out of the room.

Closing Thoughts: Preparing for a Doctor’s Visit with Your Loved One

Each of us only receives a few minutes with the doctor. To make the most of them, preparation and organization are key.

As a family caregiver in California, we invite you to check out our library of free resources. The California Caregiver Resource Center is here to provide assistance and guidance. Together, we can navigate the healthcare landscape and help you provide the best possible care for your loved one(s) over time.

Further Reading: How to Compassionately Bring Up Concerns About Someone’s Health

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in a prior blog post: How to Compassionately Bring Up Concerns About Someone’s Health. It’s important to have these conversations in a way that is loving and constructive, so in this article, we break down how to compassionately address your concerns with your loved one. Click here dive in.

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