A visit to a doctor can be overwhelming to anyone, but especially to our older loved ones. It’s important to make visits to the doctor easier for older parents, so they get through each medical appointment with dignity and as little fear as possible.
Here are five key things to consider each time your elderly parents go to the doctor:
1. Keep All Medical Information in a Binder
Keeping all medical information organized can be difficult, but it is critical for your older loved ones, who may be experiencing a bit of information overload or memory loss. Purchasing a three-ring binder with tabs for each doctor, medical condition, medication lists, and other items can help make sure everything stays well organized and handy for both you and your parents.
2. Review Medications Beforehand and Bring List to Appointment
It’s also important to be able to clearly and accurately communicate with a doctor about all of your parents’ medications, because they may have prescriptions from different doctors or they may need a refill. Be sure you and/or your parents review all their medications before heading to the doctor’s office. It’s critical that each doctor knows about every medicine being ingested or injected (or prescription ointment being applied), so there are no conflicts over medicine combinations. Also, make sure your parents keep a current and accurate list of their medicines in their wallet or purse. If they have smartphones, another option is to use a list app or notepad to keep track of their prescriptions.
3. Bring Medical Documentation (in Binder)
Once your parents’ medical information is well-organized in a binder, make sure you bring it with you to the doctor’s office. This provides a good point of reference for you and the medical team, and also gives you one location to take notes on medical advice, medicinal changes, and other related matters.
4. Have Questions Written Down (in Binder)
Whether your parents are visiting a doctor for a regular checkup or a specific problem, they’ll probably have a few questions they want to ask the doctor. Writing down those questions in the medical binder prior to the appointment is a good way to make sure those questioned are asked and answered. A forgotten medical question can create unnecessary frustration for your loved ones than necessary. Write down the questions, put them in the binder, and bring the binder to every appointment with the doctor.
5. Have a Companion at the Appointment
Having the support of a family member or friend during doctor’s appointments can provide a great deal of comfort. Try to make sure your older parents have someone who knows them well accompany them when they visit a doctor. If you’re not available, perhaps another family member or one of their friends can make the trip. That person can listen to the doctor to make sure nothing is missed, ask questions and clarify instructions, and fill in the blanks for your older loved one once they’re back at home, if needed. Likewise, if the visit outcome causes additional stress or concern, having someone immediately available to lean on and talk with will help make a potentially difficult situation easier to bear. If the result of the visit is good news, then maybe you can both relax by having a nice lunch together or stopping for a cup of coffee.