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Caregivers preparing for doctor visit

5 Tips to Help Caregivers Prepare for Doctor Visits

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As a caregiver, you assume many different roles: transportation coordinator, meal planner, medication supervisor, emotional support person and so many others. One of the primary caretaking responsibilities is assisting your loved ones with their medical appointments. This duty can take a little getting used to for most new caregivers.

When we plan our own health appointments, we already know or have easy access to the knowledge or background information that the doctor will need. But when you are assisting someone else, you will need to coordinate with this second person. Before you get to the doctor's office, there's a lot you can do to ensure that the appointment is smooth, efficient and productive.

When accompanying someone you care for to a doctor’s appointment, it is important that you ensure they receive the highest level of care. Whether it is your spouse, parent or grandparent, caregivers should arrive at the appointment ready with questions and information that may be important.

Here are some tips for caregivers to make the most of their loved one’s visits.

Talk with Your Loved One

Before the doctor's visit, sit down and discuss what information is vital to bring up with the physician and what questions you may want to ask. Preparing for the appointment will help you to ensure that the visit is productive. You and your loved one will be on the same page and won't deliver conflicting information or requests, which may complicate the conversation. Preparation will also guarantee that both you and your loved one are comfortable with what you plan on discussing.

Finally, by having a chat ahead of your visit, you can jot down the key points and objectives so that they are easier to remember! Between arriving on time for your visit, finding parking, checking in and filling out new paperwork, it can be easy to forget the questions you originally planned on asking.

Make a List of Prescriptions

You will not regret preparing a current list of prescription medications and any supplements or vitamins your loved one is currently taking! Make sure to note the frequency and dosage. If you don’t want to bring the prescriptions into the office, taking pictures of the prescription bottles and saving them in a photo album on your cell phone may be a time-sensitive solution.

If your healthcare provider uses an electronic medical record system like MyOchsner to manage patient information, the provider can access medical records and prescriptions electronically. However, these records won't include any over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements that your loved one is taking in addition to the medicine prescribed by the doctor.

Having a complete list can help the doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant make sure all current and new prescriptions interact safely.

Call Ahead

If possible, call the clinic in advance to make them aware of any needs that your loved one may have, like a wheelchair. Connecting with the office ahead of the meeting allows you to check on what types of tests and procedures your loved one should expect during the visit. 

By calling ahead, you can double-check if there are any specific requirements, like fasting before blood work. Confirm the appointment's date and time and ask if there's anything your loved one should do to prepare. If you have questions about accessibility, directions or insurance, a pre-appointment call is a great time to communicate them.

Take Notes

During a physician's visit, a lot of information is coming your way in a short period of time. Be sure to take reliable notes during the appointment to have a reference point for important information gained when you get home. You can take notes either in a notebook with a pen or pencil or in a notes app on your smartphone. And don't be shy to ask your doctor to repeat a complicated instruction or request if it helps you capture the entire point accurately.

Speak Up

At the end of the day, you are there to make sure your loved one receives all of the care they require to stay as healthy as possible. Be sure to raise any questions you may have and request clarification if you or your loved one does not understand what the provider is saying. Your healthcare provider is in your corner when it comes to your loved one’s health!

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 15, 2017. 

When was your last primary care exam? If it's been over a year, let's get your health back on track.

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