Ways to Help Seniors at Visits to the Doctor

Going alone to a doctor’s appointment can be stressful at any age, but older adults often feel especially intimidated. Having a loved one come along as a healthcare advocate during a doctor’s visit can help seniors get better care. As an advocate, you can provide moral support as well as help seniors talk about sensitive health issues, ask questions, take notes, and, if needed, coordinate care if multiple doctors or specialists are involved.

Here are some sensible ways to help make a senior’s visit to the doctor more productive and less intimidating.

Prepare for the visit. Make a list of all current medications, including prescriptions and any over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins and herbal supplements. In the days before the visit, start talking to your older adult about how they’re feeling and whether they have bothersome symptoms. Make a list of questions for the doctor, and any issues your senior wants to mention.

Take notes during the visit. It’s a challenge for anyone to understand and retain all the doctor’s information given during a visit—especially for seniors with memory loss, hearing impairment, and feelings of being confused and overwhelmed. Write down what the doctor says so you and your older adult can understand (and later remember) diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and medical decisions.

Ask for a medication review. At least once a year, ask the doctor to make sure whether all the senior’s medications are being taken properly, working well together, and are still needed. Here’s where your list of all your older adult’s current medications (prescription, over the counter, and vitamins and supplements) will prove invaluable.

Help manage your senior’s entire medical team. Many older adults see multiple doctors or specialists to manage all their health issues. Often, though, these doctors, nurses, and technicians may not communicate with each other. Help your senior keep track of what each health professional says, recommends, and prescribes. Share the information with all members of the medical team. Doing so will help ensure treatments don’t conflict and cause undesirable drug interactions.