For Barbara Eugene, going to her doctor can be something to dread. She worries that the doctor will find something wrong. She worries about being alone. And then there’s what the doctor will say – and how he’ll say it.
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“Listening to the doctor speak a language that is almost foreign to me is the worst part of it all,” said Eugene , 62,of Port Orange, Fla.
“I am often alone and I can never understand what he is talking about. I often stop him mid-sentence and ask him to repeat himself. It’s usually difficult for both him and me.”
“When I first noticed small sores on my legs, I quickly ran to the doctor’s office. I was referred to so many different doctors. No one ever told me why I was being referred. It wasn’t until I was sent to a pulmonary doctor, that I knew it was something serious. After two years of being referred to so many different doctors and being misdiagnosed twice, I finally knew what was wrong with my body. I had Sarcoidosis,” an illness that causes patches of chronic inflammatory cells to form, sometimes on organs.
Visiting a doctor’s office can be a unenjoyable chore for anyone. Yet research shows it can be especially stressful for African-Americans. African-Americans are at a higher risk for serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, cancer and a host of other diseases. Even with those high risks, many older African-Americans avoid visiting the doctor and scheduling regular checkups.
Whatever your background, patients who wrestle with scheduling a medical appointment can share some common concerns:
- Concern about getting bad news about your health, especially when you’re alone
- Confusing medical terminology
- Misdiagnosis or lack of any diagnosis
Eugene says many of her worries would have been over if a family member had accompanied her.
“I would probably be more comfortable. None of my family has asked to take me to the doctor,” said Eugene.
Yet family members may not realize how helpful their presence can be – or they may be reluctant to ask a family member if they can accompany them, not wanting to embarrass a family member.
“It’s really important to provide that support to an older family member,” said AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson. “If you’re concerned about possible embarrassment, think how much worse you’d feel if a loved one failed to cope with a medical problem because it went undetected.”
Taking a loved one to the doctor is so important that nationally known broadcast personality Tom Joyner has created an entire initiative around the idea. Joyner’s initiative, Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day, has grown from a single day’s event to a year-round campaign.
What should you or a loved one take with you to the doctor?
- Compiling an envelope with information about your loved one’s current list of medications is important. Providing this list of medications will prevent your doctor from unknowingly prescribing your loved one a cocktail of death. Mixing certain medications can result in hospitalization or death.
- Providing your loved one’s family and personal health history (personal and family) is also a great way to prepare for the visit. This may prompt the doctor to give your loved one a helpful test if a particular disease runs in your family.
- You may also want to prepare a list of questions for the doctor, especially if your loved one is experiencing any types of symptoms. It can be hard to think of all the right questions on the spur of the moment.
Among these lists don’t forget:
- Some form of photo identification
- Insurance card
Also, remember to ask lots of questions, especially about unfamiliar terms.
Doctors often speak a ‘white-coat’ language; medical terminology is sometimes difficult to understand. Many of us often smile and nod. We are simply confused, which why it is helpful to carry a pen and pad to all doctor appointments. It can help to take notes about things that confuse you.
And don’t be afraid to ask the doctor to repeat himself. Remember, neither you nor your loved should leave the doctor’s appointment confused. Doctors who use technical terminology every day with colleagues can easily lose track of how confusing their terms can be to the rest of us.
Your support for a loved one shouldn’t stop when you leave the doctor’s office. In fact, it may just be beginning. Be prepared to support your loved one if the doctor has made any life-changing recommendations such as:
- A change in diet
- An exercise regimen
- A new prescription
They need all the motivation they can get. Changing lifelong habits can be a difficult task if you are facing the change alone.
So go ahead and take a loved one to the doctor. It’s a great way to show them just how much you love them. Assist them with the greatest gift of all, life.