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How Seniors Should Communicate with Their Doctors

At Home Helpers, we are frequently contacted by the children of our clients who have no clue about the information from a recent doctor’s visit.

If you or your loved one feels rushed during a doctor’s appointment, it may not be your imagination. With changes in Medicare and other insurance issues, physicians do not have as much time to spend with individual patients to ensure they understand medical conditions and treatment. Seniors who live independently or who have in-home care may be concerned that communication between patient and doctor is not clear enough to address health needs and questions. The answer to improving the doctor-patient relationship may be a combination of advocacy and organization.

Barriers to Communication

Effective interactions between elderly people and their physicians can be challenging for several reasons:

  • Generational - Seniors grew up in a different time, when doctors were viewed as authorities who should not be questioned
  • Sensory loss - With impaired vision or hearing, seniors may have difficulty understanding or following their doctor’s orders
  • Cognitive limitations - Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other cognitive decline may interfere with a senior’s ability to remember details or ask questions for clarification

Quality senior care may require assistance from a family member or a caregiver to provide information to help a doctor understand more about health status, issues, symptoms, and lifestyle in order to better treat an elderly person.

Overcoming the Obstacles

Family members, caregivers, and independent seniors can prepare for doctor’s appointments to make the most of the limited time available. The easiest way is by getting organized. Take the time to write out a thorough medical history, and be sure to include:

  • Past health problems
  • Treating physicians
  • Current diagnoses
  • Recent medical tests or surgeries
  • A list of all medications and supplements, with frequency and dosage
  • Any allergies

You should also write out a list of questions to discuss the doctor. Take along paper and pen to make notes in case you need more information. A caregiver or family member can be helpful at appointments to bring up any other concerns or to ask for clarification about any medical language, prescriptions, or other details.  Try to stay focused; it’s easy to get off track when talking with a medical provider and forget one or several of the reasons for the visit. If you feel rushed, you can ask for another appointment for more time to ask questions. 

Seniors, family members, and caregivers who provide in-home care can all take part in improving communication with doctors for improved relationships and better senior care. Home Helpers can also be part of the puzzle to assist you with medical appointments or any other needs for a better quality of life for you or your loved one and we are frequently asked by clients or their children who can’t be present for the appointment, to be with the doctor and client so they can report.