At any age, visiting the doctor can be a stressful and confusing ordeal. This can especially be the case for the elderly who may be unaware of their medical needs and often have a difficult time understanding what the doctor is telling them.

But in order for your loved one to live the healthiest, most comfortable lifestyle possible it is important for them to be able to get the most out of these doctor’s appointments. That might mean that you as a caregiver will need to accompany them to the appointment. If your schedule does not permit you to attend, consider asking another family member or a home care professional to help out.

Regardless of who actually goes to the appointment with your loved one, there are ways you can ensure that they get the most out of the trip while reducing some of the stress and nervousness.

What should I do before the appointment?

Getting organized before the appointment will save your loved one and the doctor time and frustration during the appointment. The more information you bring with you, the easier it will be for the nurses and doctor to provide accurate health information.

Things you can do beforehand include:

  • Make a list of questions to ask the nurses and doctor. Making this list before the appointment gives you time to make sure nothing is forgotten.
  • Make and bring a list of your current prescriptions, vitamins and supplements (even bring pictures of the bottles). Bring refill information, too.
  • Call ahead if you need special accommodations during the appointment (wheelchair, etc.).
  • Get there early. Leave plenty of time to get to the appointment, park and walk to the check-in area. This will eliminate the stress that can come from being rushed.
  • Complete any paperwork you can in advance. Sometimes, you can complete paperwork (and even pay) online. Or, ask the doctor’s office to mail the paperwork in advance and you can complete it and mail or fax it back before the appointment.

What can I do during the appointment?

Once your loved one is at the appointment, there are things you as the caregiver (or whoever accompanied them) can do to make the time worthwhile. The goal is to collect as much health information about your loved one as possible to help keep them happy and healthy.

Consider these tips during the doctor visit:

  • Take good notes. Sometimes, your loved one (and even you) can feel like doctor’s appointments are information overload. It’s difficult to remember everything unless you write it down. Take a notepad with you so you can write down instructions and other information from the doctor.
  • Be honest. The doctor can best help your loved one if they are honest about how they’re feeling. Make sure your loved one discloses symptoms, eating habits and whether they are regularly taking their meds. Fudging the truth will ultimately hurt your loved one.
  • Ask questions. Sometimes it seems that doctors are in a hurry to get in and out of your appointment. But your loved one should not be afraid to ask any questions – it’s their health and they deserve answers. Their doctor works for them, not the other way around.

What should I do after the appointment?

The time at the appointment can feel like a whirlwind for your loved one. Just the time preparing, going to the appointment and returning home can be tiring for them. Once they are back home in familiar surroundings, you can help them feel more confident that the trip was worthwhile by doing a few simple things:

  • Pick up any prescriptions. You can get these on the way home after the appointment or soon after. Make sure your loved one understands their medication instructions and schedule. If you or a home care professional are overseeing meds, ensure that everyone is on the same page so nothing gets missed.
  • Review appointment notes. Schedule time for your loved one and any caregivers (you and others) to review notes and think about what was discussed during the appointment. Discuss any decisions that need to be made regarding treatment and develop any follow-up questions, which should be written down for the next appointment.
  • Follow through on doctor’s advice. Once your loved one and caregivers understand the doctor’s recommendations, make sure they are followed. This is the only way to ensure that your loved one is as healthy as possible. If questions pop up along the way, be sure to call the doctor’s office for any clarifications.