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Preparing for an Appointment with the Doctor

Erin T. Lamoureux PhD, RN, GCNS-BCErin T. Lamoureux PhD, RN, GCNS-BCWe are living in uncertain times. Since mid-March the United States has reported cases of COVID-19 in 50 states. This virus has created an environment of social distancing and stay-at-home advisories. It has changed many of our “normal” everyday routines, such as doctor visits.

Continuity of care from medical doctors for chronic illnesses is important, even during this COVID-19 period, to prevent worsening of chronic conditions. 

As the population ages, more older adults are living with one or more chronic illnesses. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are not taking a vacation during this present pandemic. Continuity of care from medical doctors for chronic illnesses is important, even during this COVID-19 period, to prevent worsening of chronic conditions. At this time, some doctors are seeing patients in person with the necessary precautions in place to limit the spread of the virus. Other doctors are seeing patients through video or telephone visits. Whether you are seeing your doctor in person or through other forms of communication, it is important to prepare for the visit ahead of time.

Prior to the visit:

  1. Arrange appointments early in the day, when you are less tired.
  2. Ask that any forms that will need to be filled out at the time of the visit be sent to you ahead of time, so that you can fill them out at your leisure. 
  3. Bring insurance cards, a list of current medications (including any over-the-counter medications), a list of allergies, your pharmacy location and number, eyeglasses, and hearing aids.
  4. Bring a small notebook with a list of priority concerns, questions, and any changes in your health status written in the notebook ahead of time. You may also write important notes pertaining to the doctor’s visit in this notebook to review later.

During the visit:

  1. If you do not hear or understand what the doctor is saying, do not be afraid to ask him/her to speak louder, slower, or to repeat misunderstood information.
  2. Share pertinent information such as hospitalizations and tests (blood work, x rays). If you see several doctors, do not assume that all information is shared among all doctors.
  3. Do not be afraid to share any personal changes you are experiencing with the doctor, such as memory issues, incontinence, or feelings of sadness or depression.
  4. Share any new changes in functional ability that may be limiting your activities of daily living such as shortness of breath with activity or weakness in upper or lower extremities.
  5. Ask that all necessary information and/or instructions be given to you, in print, at the end of the appointment. Ask for available handouts/brochures related to your medical diagnosis or treatment, for review later.

Doctor visits are successful if you plan ahead!