One of the most dreaded tasks for caregivers is the trip to the doctor. The scenario goes something like this: Appointment made; Mom forgets appointment; Mom refuses to go; it’s all down hill from there. For weeks she has had various complaints, but on the day of the appointment, she denies any discomfort and wonders where you got that idea. After much cajoling you finally get her into the car and you’re off. The office wait is long and Mom becomes restless frequently asking why she’s there. Finally you get to see the doctor and feel like your mission’s been accomplished. WRONG! The doctor greets Mom with ” How are you?” and she replies, “Just fine”. Every time you try to interject with a comment, Mom glares at you and denies what you’re saying. You hesitate to say more for fear of being a tattletale and causing a scene. After a quick physical exam and renewal of prescriptions you’re out the door in 12 minutes. Stressed and tired, you realize you left without having your questions answered and feel like it was all a waste of time. So how can you prevent this from happening again? Plan ahead.

Here are some tips that are helpful:

  • Keep your loved one’s routine in mind. If he/she is a late riser, don’t make the appointment for early morning.
  • Avoid a long office wait by scheduling the visit for the first or last appointment of the day. If this isn’t possible because of your loved one’s daily routine, explain the circumstances and ask the receptionist to suggest an appropriate time. Some offices close for lunch and may be able to schedule you for the first appointment in the afternoon.
  • Keep your loved one involved in the visit. Help him/her write down concerns or problems that the doctor should address. An ongoing list is a good idea. Every time a discomfort is voiced or observed, add it to the list. Keep the list visible as a reminder for the upcoming appointment.
  • If there are problems you don’t want to discuss in front of your loved one, write a separate list and hand it to the receptionist explaining that the doctor needs to read it in advance. Or, request a private consultation either in person or by phone before the visit.
  • Bring paper and pen to take notes. Don’t rely on your memory to recall all that was said.
  • Sometimes a loved one doesn’t want you in the exam room. Offer to go as the secretary to take notes. Keep a low profile until he/she becomes more comfortable with you in the room. It could take a few visits before this happens.

Healthcare visits are very important but tend to be rushed. With good planning and organization they’ll go smoothly and be less stressful for both you and your loved one.

Mary C. Fridley