• COME Outreach

A Doctor's Visit

I often smile to myself as I recall making a home visit to one of my patient and she said “I am not going to the doctor today because I feel sick” It was a challenge to convince her that she should see the doctor because she did not feel well.




The thought of going to a doctors’ appointment can cause feelings of anxiety, fear and confusion for your family member. My mother would go to an appointment and come home with a new medication. When asked about the appointment she could not recall what the doctor had discussed with her or why she was given a new medication. I then realized that my presence during her appointments with the doctor made a difference in her understanding what was being said. I got a chance to listen, ask questions and provide adequate answers. Here are some tips for Preparing for your family member doctors’ visit.


Try to schedule doctor visits for times when you and your family member have the most energy and are not distracted. Doctor visits are stressful enough without your being worried about picking up a child from school or finishing a project at work. The time of day may be important; your family member may be better able to participate in the doctor’s visit in the morning before the activities of the day, or in the afternoon after a nap.


Before the appointments talk with your family member about what you both want to accomplish during this doctor’s visit. For instance: What are your family member’s main concerns? Is it about physical symptoms, like pain or shortness of breath? Maybe they are not sleeping throughout the night? What are your main concerns? Are they the same as your family member’s? If you and your family member share the same concerns, then you know what to focus on during the visit. But if you and your family member have very different concerns, try to agree on one or two that each of you will discuss with the doctor.


Figure out how to talk with the doctor about sensitive issues. These might include a symptom that feels embarrassing (like incontinence) or worrisome (like memory loss or concerns about driving). Each of you may need time to talk alone with the doctor. There should be a discussion with your family member before hand regarding your input or voice during the appointment. Your family member may want you to stay in the waiting room while the doctor is examining him or her or come into the doctor’s exam room. When it’s time to talk, your family member might prefer that you remain quiet. This way, you help just by taking notes or making sure you have correct information, such as about a new medicine. You might have the list of concerns and be the person to make sure those are discussed. This may be by prompting your family member. You might take the lead in asking questions and giving information. For some family members, this is a relief and does not feel like you are taking over. If your family member has advanced dementia or is otherwise unable to communicate, then you will need to take a more active role. Make sure your family member signed all the necessary forms that will allow you to speak with the doctor alone, either before or after the visit. Many doctors will be available for scheduled telephone calls. To make this call most effective, have your list of concerns ready. Where possible, limit the list to the items that you do not wish to discuss in front of your family member.


This article is adapted from Next Step in Care www.nextstepincare.org.

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Caregivers Outreach

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