In a doctor’s office, it’s easy to forget the questions you meant to ask – especially if you’re there for treatment of a specific illness or injury rather than for a routine appointment.
As you prepare to accompany your senior parent to a medical appointment, consider making a list of topics to bring up in your limited time with the doctor. By having your questions in writing, you can be sure to take full advantage of the doctor’s knowledge, create a plan for addressing any ongoing concerns and get a jump on preparing for the next appointment. Don’t be shy about taking notes while you’re in the doctor’s office. The doctor will appreciate your thorough approach, and you’ll be able to share your notes later with others in your family, including your parent.
Start your list with these eight questions and add your own to make the most of your parent’s next appointment.
What is the diagnosis?
Many people leave a doctor’s appointment without understanding their condition or getting a diagnosis. If the doctor hasn’t fully explained your parent’s status, ask questions until you’re satisfied. Ask for the specific diagnosis, and write down the answer so you can conduct your own research later.
What’s the purpose of the prescribed medications?
For every medication prescribed to your parent, make sure you understand the dosage, frequency, purpose, possible side effects and any potential interactions with other drugs. Your doctor may assume you have the knowledge you need about your parent’s medications; if you don’t, ask.
Are any follow-up tests necessary?
Doctors don’t have much time to spend with each patient, and sometimes they’re in a rush to make the next appointment. If your parent has a test or receives a diagnosis, be sure to ask about the need for any follow-up testing, what the doctor hopes to learn from the tests and when testing should occur. Ask for copies of all test results for your records.
Is my parent getting the right nutrition?
As seniors age, they can lose their appetite for a number of reasons, including health conditions, side effects of medications and less energy for cooking. If you’re not sure what constitutes a healthy diet for someone of your parent’s age and health status, ask the doctor. Consider requesting a referral to a dietitian who works with seniors if your parent has specific nutritional needs that are not being met.
How will medications affect my parent’s appetite?
A number of medicines taken by seniors can interfere with appetite, which can lead to inadequate nutrition and deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals. Arthritis medications and pain relievers, for instance, can cause stomach irritation, while meds like stool softeners and antibiotics can alter the sense of taste.
Are supplements necessary?
Most experts agree that people should get their nutrition from food rather than supplements. However, seniors who have problems eating a balanced diet – whether because of health problems or waning appetite – may need a multivitamin and higher doses of specific supplements. Ask your doctor if your parent needs supplements and, if so, in what forms and dosages.
What is my parent’s risk of falling?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 25 percent of seniors experience a fall each year, and falling once doubles the risk of another fall. Ask your doctor if your parent’s medications could increase the risk, what tests are available to check your parent’s balance, and what exercises and safety measures can help.
What should we work on for the next visit?
By asking the doctor about areas of possible improvement for the next appointment, you initiate a conversation about your parent’s overall health. Armed with information, you can focus on correcting any deficiencies or problems – and begin preventive measures to maintain your parent’s independence and vitality.