Talking with Your Doctor

Your Visit to the Doctor

As you get older, it becomes even more important to talk often and comfortably with your doctor. One reason is you may have more health problems and treatments to discuss. It's also because your health can have a big impact on other parts of your life, and that needs to be talked about too. The tips in this chapter will help you make the most of your doctor visit.

Make the Most of Your Time

There are many things that you can bring to your doctor visit to help you and your doctor make the most of your time together.

Bring Your Visit Plan

In chapter one you learned how to make a plan before you go to see the doctor. It is important that you bring this plan to your doctor visit. The plan includes a complete list of your

  • symptoms
  • medications (your doctor may ask you to bring these with you to your visit)
  • habits and life changes.

Bring Glasses and/or Hearing Aids, If You Use Them

It is important to be able to see and hear as well as possible during your doctor visit. If you use glasses or need aids for hearing, bring them with you to the doctor's office. Also, let the doctor and staff know if you have a hard time seeing or hearing.

Bring a Family Member or Friend

Sometimes it is helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to your doctor visit. During your visit, this person can remind you about what you want to talk about, take notes, and help you remember what your doctor says. If you bring a family member or friend, you can still have time alone with your doctor to talk about personal matters.

If a relative or friend helps with your care at home, bringing that person along when you visit the doctor may be useful. Your caregiver may have questions for your doctor about your care or want to know where to find sources of information and support.

Request An Interpreter If You Know You'll Need One

If the doctor you selected or were referred to doesn’t speak your language, ask your doctor’s office to provide an interpreter. Even though some English-speaking doctors know basic medical terms in Spanish or other languages, you may feel more comfortable speaking in your own language, especially when it comes to sensitive subjects, such as sexuality or depression. Call the doctor’s office ahead of time as they may need to plan for an interpreter to be available.

Always let the doctor, your interpreter, or the staff know if you do not understand your diagnosis or the instructions the doctor gives you. Don’t let language barriers stop you from asking questions or voicing your concerns.

For a printable checklist, see Getting Ready For Your Doctor's Visit [PDF] or [HTML version]

Rank Your List of Concerns

Talk about the three or four most important concerns or questions first. If you put off talking about the items that are bothering you most, you may run out of time to talk about them during the visit. Afterwards, if you have time, you can talk about the other things on your list.

Stick to the Point

Your doctor may not have a lot of time to talk with you. Therefore, it is important for you to stay focused on what you planned to talk about. For example, give a brief summary of what is bothering you most, when the symptom started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better.

Be Honest With Your Doctor

You may want to say what you think your doctor wants to hear, like you are smoking less or eating healthier foods. It is important to tell your doctor the truth, even if it is embarrassing. Your doctor can best help you only when he or she knows what is really going on.

Also, be honest with your doctor about how you feel about your visit. Tell your doctor if you feel rushed, worried that you didn't have enough time, or uncomfortable with your visit. You can offer to come back for a second visit to talk more about your health concerns.

Remember, your doctor may not be able to answer all of your questions.

Most doctors will tell you when they do not have answers. They may be able to help you find the information you need or refer you to another doctor, a specialist, who can answer your questions.

For a printable checklist, see Making Good Use of Your Time During a Doctor’s Visit [PDF] or [HTML version]