Tips on How to Support a Loved One at a Doctor’s Appointment

    Glenn Smith 26 Jun

    Person Centered Care, elder care

    Tips on How to Support a Loved One at a Doctor’s Appointment

    How you can support a loved one before, during, and after a doctor's appointment.  Read more on how you can lend  support.

    A trip to the doctor's office can be overwhelming.  During a visit the nurse and doctor often will share quite a bit of information, some of which can be difficult to understand or remember. If the patient hasn't been feeling well, he or she may be nervous about a diagnosis. In some cases, he or she may be embarrassed to bring up certain symptoms or may forget to ask important questions.

    Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to support a loved one before, during, and after a doctor's appointment:

    Ask If He Would Like You to Go  iStock-975747598

    Don't assume he wants company, even if you think he needs it. Depending upon your relationship and his medical history and status, he may prefer not to have you in the room. Maybe he would just like a ride to and from the appointment, or perhaps he'd prefer to go alone after all. Still, offering to accompany him lets him know you care and are there for him.

    Help Make a List of Questions

    Sit down together and prepare a list of overall concerns, symptoms and a list of questions to ask the doctor. Questions may include:

    • What are my treatment options and how much do they cost?
    • What are the medication names and why am I taking this?
    • Are there any side effects to this medication?
    • Are there any foods or activities I should avoid while taking the medication. 
    • Are they healing from injury, or recovering from surgery?
    • What if I forget to take my medication or take too much?
    • What can I focus on prior to my next visit?
    • Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again?
    • When should I see you again?

    Include in your list any symptoms or side effects your loved one has been noticing—these should be brought to the doctor's attention.

    This online tool from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality helps you create a list of questions based upon the nature of the visit; you can print it out with space to write the doctor's answers.

    Introduce Yourself to the Doctor iStock-938438930

    Explain your relationship to the patient and why you're at the appointment.  Are you there to take notes, to help him remember important information, to understand how to best help him at home, or to offer support.


    Ask for Clarification

    If something about the diagnosis, treatment, or recovery isn't clear, ask the doctor to keep explaining it until it is. This is a perfectly reasonable request.

    When you feel you have an understanding, repeat it back to the doctor and ask if you have it right.  This will also help your loved one either ask additional questions of affirm they too understand what the doctor has explained.

    Take Notes 

    When you take notes, it allows the patient to be present and listen carefully to what the doctor is saying. It can be difficult to catch it all when you're trying to listen and write at the same time. With both of you listening—and you writing down the key points—your loved one will leave with a more thorough understanding of what to expect during the course of a medical event, treatment, or recovery process.

    You should review your notes when you get home to make sure you still understand everything you wrote down, and to elaborate on it while it's still fresh in your mind.

    Call to Follow Up iStock-594472468

    If something in your notes doesn't make sense or if you need to clarify guidelines for a medication, for example, don't hesitate to call the doctor to follow up. You should also call if your loved one experiences any side effects from the medication.

    You can also call or remind your loved one to call to get test results or to schedule a follow-up appointment. 

    Everyone has different wants and needs when it comes to their healthcare experience. Be respectful of your loved one's wishes and privacy and know that your support may start long before a doctor's appointment is scheduled or needed. Checking in with the on a frequent basis will allow you to notice any changes in behavior, attitude, or physical capabilities are more ways to offer ongoing love and support.

    You might want to consider to sit down with your family members to better understand your family's health history; this checklist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great place to start.

    At Church Home LifeSpring, we welcome your involvement during your loved one's stay with us. You are welcome to accompany your family member during appointments and we're happy to explain the medical and or treatment plan until you both understand and feel informed during the healing and recovery process. If you have any questions, please contact us

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