woman getting the most out of her doctor appointment

Your doctor may have told you that you should get an annual physical.  Almost 45 million Americans do – and that number is even higher for seniors.  And of course, aging often leads to aches, pains, and illnesses that send you to the clinic more often than that. 

The “annual physical rule” has recently come under scrutiny with many experts saying it really isn’t necessary for younger folks.  Obviously, you’ll want to consult with a doctor if you’re having any problems or changes in your health.  But the general consensus is that annual physicals are a good idea for people once they reach the ripe old age of 50.  

So whether it’s a yearly appointment or an interim visit for illness or injury, are you getting the most out of your visits?  Well, many people don’t.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  

So how do you make the most of your appointment?  Here are some ideas.

What to Do During a Doctor Appointment

Be Prepared.  This may be the Boy Scout motto, but it’s also the best advice for those planning a doctor visit!  Your appointment will be scheduled for only a certain amount of time so you’ll want to make the most of it.

What’s up?  When you make the appointment, give them a brief idea of the reason for the visit so they can allow enough time.  They’ll typically reserve a longer time for a physical, but for other appointments be sure to mention all the reasons — so you have time to discuss them with your doctor.

Starting new.  If you’re a new patient, bring along a personal and family health history.  Sometimes they’ll send you a form in advance.  If so, complete it at home and make a copy to keep for future use.  Bring your previous medical records – or have them sent to your new doctor in advance. 

Get physical.  If you’ve got an annual physical coming up think about any health issues that may have been bothering you.  If you have enough time, be aware of your body leading up to the appointment and write things down – no matter how small they seem.  Sometimes things hurt or “act up” during one part of the day and then improve.  Arthritis may be worse first thing in the morning or during the night, so you may forget to mention what’s not hurting when you see your doc).   Or allergies might be sporadic and you’d like to get a prescription for when they’re bad, but you aren’t feeling it in your air-conditioned doctor’s office, so it’s easy to forget.

Keep track.  If you’ve been having any health problems keep a record of when it all began, when the problem occurs, and how severe it is.  This is an especially effective way to track migraines, digestive issues, or other conditions that crop up frequently but not regularly.  Knowing when they occur will help you and your doctor to determine what may be triggering the problem.  

Write it down.  Write a list of things you may want to ask or discuss – even if they seem minor.  Sometimes one condition may be related to another and you’d never realize it until your doctor becomes aware of both symptoms and puts two and two together.  

Don’t go alone.  Take someone with you to your appointment.  If your memory isn’t what it used to be – or you’re diagnosed with something unexpected or even frightening, that person can take notes and ask questions to help you remember and take further action.

Doing drugs.  Bring a list of your medications – not only prescriptions, but also any vitamins, herbs, supplements, or over-the-counter meds you take on a regular basis.  This is especially important for seniors who travel or spend the winter in a warmer climate or who have just retired to a new community.  Knowing your meds will help your doctor discover any possible drug interactions as well as what has worked and what hasn’t, side effects you may have, and whether you might be taking too many medications. 

New drugs.  If you get a new prescription, don’t be afraid to ask what the common side effects are. What side effects would warrant calling your doctor?  How soon can you expect the drug to work?  And feel free to ask for clarification on when to take it, whether to take it with food, etc.  

Don’t be shy.  Doctors are bound by patient confidentially, so you don’t have to worry about anything you say.  Yes, it might be embarrassing to discuss hemorrhoids, your sex life, or bowel movements, but there may be an easy solution that you’ll never know about if you never bring it up. 

Be honest.  It’s tempting to lie about things you know you should do and don’t do — or things you do that you know you shouldn’t.  Smoking, eating donuts, and cheese curds, not wearing your seatbelt, or having unsafe sex are some of the most common offenders.  You get the idea.  Again, you need to be honest or your doctor can’t help you.

Get it in writing.  If you get a new prescription, exercise, or other instruction, ask to have it written down.  You might think you’ll remember, but sometimes it’s a lot to take in all at once.  Better be safe than sorry.

Cheatsheet.  If this is a lot to remember, use the American Heart Association’s new guideline nicknamed PACE:

Provide information about how you feel.

Ask questions if you don’t have enough information.

Clarify what you hear.

Express any concerns you might have.

And don’t forget to make any follow-up appointments before you leave!

Senior Living Communities for Your Ongoing Health

Florida is home to many seniors attracted to the warm climate (both seasonal and year-round).  Those who enjoy senior living at Discovery Village at Tampa Palms have an added “helper” when it comes to health, wellness, and medication.  Discovery Village offers seniors the option of supervised independent living, assisted living, and memory care.  We also offer wellness assessments and the ability to add to health services when needed.  Contact Discovery Village at Tampa Palms today by calling 813.437.9731


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