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How to Talk to a Doctor About Your Senior’s Symptoms

How to Talk to a Doctor About Your Senior’s Symptoms

As a caregiver, there will be times when you’ll have to talk to a doctor on your senior’s behalf. This is especially true if your senior is having trouble with memory, is physically weak or exhausted, or is in denial about the status of his health.

Make a List of Issues

Don’t try to commit your concerns to memory. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation speaking to a doctor about other things and forget the points you wanted to bring up. Instead, write down your concerns and present them as an organized list. Use bullet points underneath each issue to provide further details so the doctor understands what’s happening in your senior’s life. List things like times when an incident has occurred, if it’s something you noticed or an issue your senior has complained about, or if this is a new problem or one that has been gradually coming on.

When gathering information about the discomfort your senior might be experiencing, the Caregiver Action Network suggests asking her how long it usually lasts, whether it stays in one place or moves, and to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. These points of detail will help doctors determine the best course of action to treat the pain, such as medicine, rest, or therapy.

Write Down or Bring in Medications

Your senior’s doctor will want to discuss the medications he is taking. While most of your senior’s medical information is probably in the doctor’s computer system, it’s a good idea to bring in the actual bottles or write down the exact dosage of each pill so that the physician has an accurate record. You may be able to get this from your senior’s pharmacy provider.

Talk with Your Senior Before and After the Exam

It’s important that your senior understands the purpose and goals of an appointment. Talk to her before and after to make sure you’re both on the same page.

For example: Your senior may be fearful that he’ll be admitted to a nursing home when you’re simply trying to ensure he’s on proper medications. Or she may assume she’s just going for a routine checkup when, in fact, you’re concerned about her recent lapses in memory.

Ask the Scheduling Nurse for Additional Time to Talk to the Doctor

Make sure you adequately describe your concerns, and emphasize that you’d like extra time allotted to talk to a doctor when you call for an appointment. Doctors are often under tight schedules, and you may not get enough time with them if you list your reason for visiting as “checkup” or “headaches.”

Also, let the doctor know if you’ll need one-on-one time alone to speak about some of the issues or if you’d like your loved one present for the entire conversation. Some issues are very sensitive, such as nursing home or assisted living facility care, and can take an unnecessary emotional toll on you and your senior if you bring them up in front of the doctor.

Proactive communication can help you and your senior’s doctor spot the first signs of mental or physical deterioration. This helps keep your senior as healthy as he can be and allows for early treatment or intervention. Talk to the physician with honesty and clarity as soon as possible — this will bring you and your loved ones peace of mind.

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