Healthy Aging – Talking with Your Doctor

Getting good health care requires a lot of decision making. Who makes those decisions? Both you and your doctor do.

The authors of "Healthwise for Life" say that people who work with their doctors to make health decisions are happier with the care they receive and the results they get. The authors say, "Your doctor is an expert on medicine, but you are an expert on yourself." Taking an active role in your health care puts the responsibility for good communication on both you and your health care provider.

Solving your medical problems and keeping you healthy involves a partnership between you and your health care provider. You need to prepare for your conversation with the doctor and be prepared to ask questions and take notes. "Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide For Older People," a publication distributed by the National Institute on Aging, offers several suggestions for building a partnership with your doctor.

First, get ready for your appointment by making a list of your concerns. If you have several items you want to discuss, list them in order so that you’re sure to ask about the most important concerns first. Take a list of the medications you’re taking and details about each condition you wish to discuss.

Be open with your doctor about your ability to hear and see well. You may want to tell them that it helps you to hear and understand if they speak slowly. Consider taking a family member or friend with you when you visit the doctor. That person can remind you what you wanted to discuss with the doctor, can help you remember what the doctor said, or can take notes for you to review later. It’s difficult to remember all that the doctor says, so making notes is very helpful.

During your discussion with the doctor, be honest about your conditions so the doctor can give you the best treatment. Stick to the point to help you get through as many items on your list as possible. Even though your doctor might wish to spend a lot of time with you, each patient is given limited time. Give the doctor a brief description of the symptom, when it started, how often it happens and if it’s getting better or worse.

Ask questions when the doctor says something that’s not clear such as the meaning of a word or instructions that are sketchy. Repeat back to the doctor what you think you heard. This helps the doctor know that you understand what he or she said and opens the door to clarification if necessary. Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor to write down information for you, especially if you’re not accompanied by a friend of family member. Following these few tips will help you get the most from your doctor visits.

Additional information on Healthy Aging is available on the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Web site at Select On-Line Info then Healthy Aging.

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By Laurel L. Kubin, County Extension Director

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Larimer County