Seniors need help talking with doctors
For many older adults, doctor appointments can be difficult and confusing. Having you as their health advocate helps them get the best possible care — especially if they need help talking about sensitive subjects, keeping track of details, or making sure their care is coordinated among multiple doctors.
How to get started helping with medical matters
Being a health advocate mostly means that you’re looking out for their best interests. Don’t be nervous about not knowing everything about your senior’s medical conditions, you’ll learn as you go.
Start by asking your older adult if they’ll allow you to help. Let them know that you want to make visits easier for them, not completely take over. They’ll still be the lead person when talking with the doctor, but you’ll be there to cover additional questions and take notes.
7 tips to help you be a great health advocate at the doctor’s office
1. Prepare for appointments ahead of time
A few weeks before your older adult’s doctor appointment, start talking with them about how they’ve been feeling and if anything is bothering them. You’ll get more information when everyone is relaxed and has time to think.
Write down questions, concerns, problems, or new symptoms so you remember important issues and details and will remember to bring them up during the appointment.
2. Take notes!
It’s nearly impossible to keep everything the doctor says in your head or remember months later. Taking notes at each appointment helps you and your senior understand why certain decisions were made or what the doctor said.
3. Make sure everyone is on the same page
When the doctor answers questions, make sure you and your senior both understand what’s being said. Don’t be afraid to ask “What does that mean?”
A big part of a doctor’s job is to make sure you both understand, so don’t be embarrassed to keep asking until you really get it. If you don’t ask, they’ll assume you already know.
4. Understand treatment options and side effects
Most seniors live with chronic health conditions. Clearly understanding the condition, treatment options, and side effects keeps them in better overall health.
Key questions you can ask about current or future treatments are:
- What is or will be the added benefit of this?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Will it affect the ability to function independently?
- What are the possibilities or consequences if we choose not to do this?
5. Ask for a full medication review at least once a year
Ask the doctor to do a full medication review at least once a year. This checks to see if all the medications are working well together, being taken at the right times and in the right combinations, and if they’re all still needed.
The fastest and easiest way to prepare is to bring the actual bottles of everything your senior takes — prescriptions, non-prescription drugs, and vitamins. That lets the doctor easily see medication names, exact dosages, and prescribing doctors.
6. Bring up concerns about treatment costs
You might be surprised to hear that doctors can actually help with medical costs. For example, they might discount their fee, give free samples of expensive prescription medications, find a less expensive (but equally effective) treatment option, or tell you about financial assistance programs.
But they won’t know to offer this help if you or your senior don’t ask or express concerns about treatment costs.
7. Coordinate between the entire medical team
Most older adults see multiple doctors or specialists to manage all their health conditions. The problem is that these doctors don’t communicate with each other. That’s where you come in.
As the health advocate, you keep track of what each doctor says, does, and prescribes. You can share that information with each doctor to make sure they have the whole picture and that treatments don’t conflict with each other or cause drug interactions.
Getting the best possible health care can be confusing and overwhelming. Having you as their health advocate will improve your older adult’s overall health.