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From the Community Press

A Visit to the Doctor

One more hour till the doctor’s appointment. Cynthia was excited this time. Maybe she’d find answers. Last time she saw her doctor, she wasn’t prepared. But this time, she got some tips from her best friend who had just retired from a nursing career. “Cyndi”, she said, “when you think of something you want to tell your doctor, jot it down so you’ll remember!” So Cynthia bought a little notebook. When she arrived at her appointment, she didn’t hesitate this time. She had 3 health concerns and had written out each symptom and question she had, all neatly organized in her little notebook. Dr. Mathews was very patient and kind and took her seriously. Back home at her retirement community, she had arranged to meet with her best friend again for lunch to discuss the appointment.

Retirement can give seniors the time and flexibility to seek the healthcare they need. With just a little preparation, doctor’s appointments can go very smoothly. And if you don’t get the answers you were looking for, it’s certainly not the end of the road. Here are some tips to help feel comfortable and secure the next time you schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Keep a notebook. As Cynthia’s friend told her, it can be handy to write down notes as soon as you think of a question or concern. You can keep a log of your symptoms, what time of day they occur as well as the severity. Changes in your daily routine or new vitamins you decide to try. Take your notebook with you to your appointment so you will be better prepared to remember your questions.

Ask Questions

Don’t be worried about asking even basic questions or using simple terminology. The most important thing is helping your doctor understand your health issues or concerns clearly. Your doctor won’t think any less of you for using colloquial vocabulary. Even medical professionals resort to simple language at times for the sake of clarity or just because they feel relaxed and comfortable using the language they want to when expressing their own situation to a doctor. The most important thing is that your needs are expressed in a way that conveys clarity so a solution can be found. After all, a solution and answers to your questions are what you are there for!

Bring a friend. Your spouse or a good friend can be a great help when talking to your doctor. Before your appointment, talk to them about what you would like to accomplish at your doctor’s appointment and any concerns you might have. During your appointment, they can help you remember things as well as bring up additional pertinent questions. After the appointment, they can help you remember what the doctor said and any follow-up appointments or care you need to follow. You can ask them to write down notes for you during the appointments to streamline the process as well.

Get a second opinion. Your doctor’s appointment is not the end of the road. If you don’t get the answers you need or if you just want another eye on your health journey, don’t hesitate to seek out another doctor and get a second opinion. This is a smart thing to do. Especially if you have a complex health issue, a major procedure recommended, or you feel a treatment plan could be improved upon. Some patients feel a loyalty to their doctor and have been seeing the same provider for years, so they feel uncomfortable seeking care with another doctor. Don’t let this be a hindrance. For example, if you have had diabetes and your blood sugars are not as controlled as you would like them to be despite following your family doctor’s care plan, consider asking to be referred to an endocrinologist who specializes in handling diabetic patients. Or, if you’re seeing an oncologist and just want a second eye on your specific condition, treatment and prognosis, don’t be afraid to go ahead and schedule with another oncologist for a second opinion. Your health is very important and you should be able to get the best care available to you.

Debrief with a friend. After your appointment, set aside some time to talk to a friend or family member. Have coffee or lunch scheduled with them ahead of time. This will give you something to look forward to and someone to talk to. A support system is invaluable, whether you get good news or were told something more serious. Your friend or family member can also help arrange transportation if you want to see a doctor outside of Albuquerque. You may even find a provider outside of New Mexico that you would like to see. Allow friends and family to help out. Those living in nursing home or assisted living situations can also greatly benefit from having a friend to talk to. Living in a 55 plus or retirement community offers residents a unique opportunity to have neighbors who become good friends and a network of support!

Being prepared can make your next doctor’s appointment smooth and relaxed. Focus on your goals and remember that there are other options available if you need additional assistance. You want to feel your best in your retirement years so you can remain active and enjoy the things you love to do!

4 responses to “A Visit to the Doctor

  1. Having a notebook is such a great tip! It helps you remember the questions that you have for your doctor, and any notes that the doctor gives you but also in keeping track of taking any medications. If you’re going to a new dr. they will always ask what meds you are taking. Having them in your notebook makes the process that much easier!

  2. I appreciate how you recommend talking to a friend or family member after the appointment. I always do that after my Albuquerque doctor appointments, but never thought of it as an essential step. But as a senior in independent living, it really is necessary to process everything to understand what the next steps are. I can’t do it all alone!

    1. Thank you for the wonderful comment, Jane! We are happy to hear you have supportive friends and family!

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