Visiting the doctor’s office with your aging loved one is a stressful experience for both of you. The time spent with the doctor is extremely short and goes by fast. You have many questions, no doubt, and need the full attention of the physician to insure they are all answered. How can you be sure all the questions and concerns are answered? Investing time and effort prior to the visit ensures your satisfaction upon leaving the office.
As with all offices in business, you’ll find personalities. All doctor’s offices are different; depending upon the size, number of health employees, type of practice and its location. But most operate the same when it comes to time spending time with patients. Here are a few things they have in common - first learn how their office system work, you and your aging loved ones have a better chance for a positive healthcare experience.
First, find out who can answer your questions. Usually, the nurse or the physician’s assistant is a good place to start with questions and concerns. By talking with them first they may be able to:
- Make appointments
- Answer general medical questions
- Look up information in your care recipient’s chart
- Answer medical concerns and questions
- Give test results
- Confirm medications and dosages
- Help arrange for prescription refills
- Help with medical emergencies
They can also consult with the doctor between patients and get back to you with answers. If your questions are more complicated, feel free to ask to speak with the doctor. The staff can determine who is best to address concerns. Learn the names of all staff members, it’ll go a long way in developing cooperative relationships.
Learn the best time to reach the doctor. Some doctors have specific hours to read emails, faxes and return phone calls so, find out what those hours are. If the doctor does not have specific hours to correspond to communication, call the receptionist first thing in the morning and leave a message. Give a one sentence synopsis of your call so the doctor can better prepare for your inquiry. Be sure to leave all the phone numbers the doctor can call to get you immediately.
How to Deal with Emergencies
Most doctors will suggest going directly to the emergency room if it’s after hours. But find out if the doctor has specific instructions of dealing with emergencies. You will want to find out these answers:
- Who to call after hours, if the doctor is not available?
- Which emergency facility should you use?
- Which hospitals and clinics does the doctor have practice privileges?
- How should medical emergencies be handled?
- If those privileges are not at a hospital or clinic near you, which does the doctor recommend?
Prepare for the Office Visit
Make a list of questions and concerns you may have before visiting the doctor’s office. Think about when you go shopping, typically you make a list check your items that you need. Going to a doctor’s appointment may be different in a sense that shopping is not as serious. So, it’s a good idea to make the full list of what concerns you; the current health status and reasons for the office visit.
Before the Visit…Check the Patient’s File
Promote clear communication and function effectively as a caregiver is to create and maintain a patient’s file. All questions, notes, medical records, and instructions from healthcare professionals should go in this notebook.
Anytime you encounter an office visit to the doctor, clinic or hospital, take the notebook with you. And more importantly, read through the file and make sure it’s up-to-date. If your aging loved one has more than one doctor, make sure the notebook includes the latest physician notes or any hospital papers or discharges you have received. You may want to make copies to give to the doctor.
Gather Your Questions
Before visiting a healthcare provider, write all your questions down in the notebook so they are in one place.
Identify Current Symptoms
Think through your loved one’s current condition before the office visit. Make a list of any and all changes of your loved one’s condition and overall well being; This should include on the general condition, any changes in pain, medications, and emotional and mental well being. Share these observations with your care recipient. This assures that you both have same understanding of his/her health status.
Call to Confirm the Appointment
Because the trip to the doctor may be a physically challenging event, be sure you call ahead of time to confirm the appointment. It could save you a lot of trouble. The doctor may have been called on a medical emergency, delaying your appointment or rescheduling altogether. You may be taking valuable time away from work, so it’s wise to call the day of the appointment - a couple of hours before the actual scheduled time. You may consider calling just before leaving to the appointment to ensure the doctor has not been called away.
During the Visit.. Help with Reporting
The office visit is for the patient. Your loved one should take the lead. If you’re in the doctor’s office during the visit, listen carefully to what’s being said. You may fill in the gaps in you loved one’s reporting and gently correct anything you believe is incomplete.