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Six tips for being your senior's health advocate at the doctor

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Use these six tips to achieve the best possible result from your senior’s doctor visit.  Too often seniors return from a doctor’s appointment with a vague recollection of what was said and how to move forward. These six tips will fix the ambiguity of a doctor’s appointment and ensure the right measures are taken.


  1. Prepare for appointments 
    Several days prior to your senior’s doctor appointment, begin to ask questions about how they are feeling. This knowledge will be helpful during the doctor’s exam, as you can provide information that your senior may have neglected or forgot to tell the doctor. If they have questions, concerns, problems or new symptoms, be sure to write them down to discuss during the appointment.
  2. Take notes
    It’s nearly impossible to keep everything the doctor says in your head or remember months later. That’s why it is recommended to take notes during the office visit. If you’re taking an elderly friend or neighbor to the doctor, having written notes will be helpful in reporting the doctor visit results to their families.
  3. Ask questions until you’re comfortable the answers
    When the doctor explains health conditions or answers your questions, make sure you and your senior understand what’s being said. Don’t be intimidated or embarrassed about asking questions until the answers are clear and make sense to you. Good general questions to ask are: Can you explain that in more detail? Why are you recommending that specific option? Is this common? How long will it take to resolve? 
  1. Understand treatment options and side effects
    Since many seniors are managing multiple, chronic health conditions, it’s important to understand a newly diagnosed health condition, its treatment options and medication side effects. 

Key questions you should ask about current or future treatments include:

    • How will this benefit the patient?
    • What are the possible side effects?
    • Will this affect their ability to function independently?
    • What are the possibilities or consequences if we choose not to do this?
  1. Ask for a full medication review  While you’re there, ask the doctor to do a full medication review to ensure your senior should still be taking all their current medications and to see if a new medication might react unfavorably with an existing medication taken. The fastest, easiest, and most accurate way to prepare for this is to bring the actual bottles of everything – prescriptions, non-prescription drugs, vitamins and even supplements. Or if you use a drugstore/pharmacy app such as Walgreen’s, all your senior’s drugs will be listed within their app, but supplements will not, unless they are prescribed by a doctor. Be sure to mention prescriptions that are from other doctors. 
  1. Bring up concerns about costs
    Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor about easing the treatment costs for your senior. You’ll be surprised at what a doctor can offer—from a discounted fee to free prescription samples. Plus, the doctor should be well versed in treatment options and their respective costs, allowing them to recommend the course of treatment that best fits your senior’s medical situation at the lowest cost.