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How Friends and Family Can Help With Your Doctor Visit

At any age, it’s crucial that you not only look after your health with doctor visits and self-care, but it’s also essential that you learn the most from those visits. As people get older, and usually have several health conditions, it’s even more important.

It’s not uncommon, though, for patients to be so upset or even frightened by a doctor visit that they can’t absorb what they’re being told, or the subject may be one they’re not familiar with. In either case, that means they won’t be learning as much as they could from the physician.

Here, from the National Institute on Aging, are some tips to help make your doctor visit as informative as possible:

It can be helpful to take a family member or friend with you when you go to the doctor’s office. You may feel more confident if someone else is with you. They may even be able to write down the points the doctor is making, while leaving you free to ask questions in response. Also, a relative or friend can help remind you about things you planned to tell or ask the doctor.

But, the NIA experts say, planning ahead is key to getting the best possible help from your companion.

To do that, let your relative or friend know in advance exactly what you would like them to do. Tell them if you want them to ask additional questions, or suggest additional questions to you.

At the same time, don’t let your companion take too strong a role. The visit is between you and the doctor. You may want some time alone with the doctor to discuss personal matters. If you are alone with the doctor during or right after the physical exam, this might be a good time to raise private concerns. Or, you could ask your family member or friend to stay in the waiting room for part of the appointment. For best results, let your companion know these details in advance.

It’s especially helpful to bring a relative or friend who helps with your care at home. In addition to the questions you have, your caregiver may have concerns he or she wants to discuss with the doctor. Some things caregivers may find especially helpful to discuss are: what to expect in the future, sources of information and support, community services, and ways they can maintain their own well-being.

Even if a family member or friend can’t go with you to your appointment, he or she can still help. For example, the person can serve as your sounding board, helping you practice what you want to say to the doctor before the visit. And after the visit, talking about what the doctor said can remind you of the important points and help you come up with questions to ask next time.

Reprinted with permission from the National Institute on Aging, www.nia.nih.gov.

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