As a caregiver, you are often asked to coordinate, offer transport to/from, and attend doctor visits. This is especially true if the person in your care has a debilitating or cognitive condition. These visits can be a source of relief, but more often they’re a source of stress: trying to make sure you touch on everything you wanted to get the answers, instructions, and reassurance you need. If this sounds like your experience, let us help you. Think of this article like a checklist: things to do before, during, and after a visit to the doctor. Preparation is key to ensure you get the most out of your time.
Before the Visit:
There are a few things you should prepare for the visit to the doctor, whether it’s a new doctor or one you have an existing rapport with:
Current Medication. Prepare and write down a list of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications, and supplements your care recipient is taking as well as the dosages.
Dietary and Exercise Habits. Your doctor may ask about exercise and dietary habits during your visit. Even if he/she doesn’t, a doctor can provide the best care by understanding your care recipient’s lifestyle. Prepare a list of common meals eaten, beverages consumed, and the respective amounts. Doctors should be made aware of your loved one’s eating and exercise patterns. For example, grapefruit interacts with many medications and impacts their absorption. There are many additional foods and beverages that can have a negative interaction with medication, which is why these habits are worth noting to the doctor.
Current Symptoms. Any new or existing symptoms should be documented to provide to your doctor. If you’re unsure whether a symptom is relevant, err on the side of caution and mention it. Keep a notepad at the ready to make notes between visits of the symptoms you’d like to discuss so you don’t forget any by the time the appointment arrives. Remember not to add implications or your own assessment of these symptoms - let the doctor diagnose the problem (or let you know where there isn’t one).
Family and Personal Medical History. Prepare and bring a recorded medical history of your care recipient as well as any known family medical history (including relation and ailments). If you’re unsure of your care recipient’s family history, it doesn’t hurt to mention that to the doctor as well.
During the Visit:
While you’re in the doctor’s office, here are the things to do:
Bring the Prepared Information. Don’t forget to bring the information you’ve prepared for this visit!
Bring a Notebook to Record the Answers to Your Questions. Any questions you’ve asked and received answers for should be written down for future reference.
Record Instructions. If the doctor gives you information on anything (like name, dosage, etc. of medication or how to administer it) record it in your notebook. It’s worth the peace of mind later to have the instructions laid out (instead of worrying when you can’t quite remember what they said).
Determine Follow Up Instructions. Schedule the next appointment or phone call if needed.
After the Visit:
Once you get home from the visit, here’s what’s next:
Review Your Notes. If there’s a follow-up that needs to happen (like calling for test results or the next appointment), schedule it on your calendar/set any applicable reminders.
Check Prescriptions. Ensure that the prescription you received from the pharmacy matches the name and dosage your doctor said they were going to give you. If available, also check the physical pill description on the label of the prescription to the look of the pills inside the bottle. Pharmacies make mistakes, so verify you received the right prescription by verifying its name, dosage, and physical appearance.
Set the Notepad Back Out. The notepad should be made available again so it is ready to take quick notes/prepare questions between doctor visits.
Preparing for your visit to the doctor can make all the difference between an appointment that feels stressful or overwhelming and one that feels helpful. Take the time to follow these steps and ensure you get the most out of the visit to the doctor with your loved one each time.
If you still have questions about this or want more information throughout your journey as a caregiver, CRCOC is here to help.
Check out our free resources for family caregivers by clicking here or give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you.