How Seniors Can Prepare for Doctor Appointments

by Fit After Fifty
Doctor showing a website on a laptop to a patient

As you get older, staying on top of your health becomes increasingly important, and that includes visiting the doctor regularly — even if you’re in good health. Regular appointments give you the chance to stay on top of chronic conditions, but also to receive routine immunizations, spot silent symptoms early on, and get advice on how to stay healthy as you age. Yearly visits are enough for those between 65 and 70, but those between 70 and 80 should schedule appointments twice a year, and those over 80, every three months.

But just like with most things, merely showing up isn’t going to get the job done. To make the most of every visit, some planning is in order. Keep reading to learn how seniors can prepare for doctor appointments.

Before Your Visit

Most of your work comes before the actual appointment. If you are visiting a new doctor for the first time, add the following items to your to-do list:

  • Records: Have your previous doctor’s office send over your past records ahead of time. This can save time and give your new provider a better picture of your overall health.
  • Accessibility: If you use a wheelchair, check if the practice you’re considering is wheelchair accessible. You may also want to bring someone with you who can help you out of your wheelchair and into the exam chair, if you’re not comfortable with having someone on staff do it.
  • Transportation: Find out exactly where the doctor’s office is ahead of time, including the suite number and where you can park. Many seniors get lost or are confused about where to go, which ends up cutting into the appointment time. A good rule of thumb is to arrive 15 minutes early, and allocating extra transportation time never hurts.

You will also want to prepare several lists to bring to your appointment:

  • Medical conditions: Compile a list of any chronic conditions you suffer from and current medications you are taking, including both prescription and over-the-counter, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Actually write these down — even seniors with excellent memory can overlook things in the moment, and your doctor needs to know everything related to your health.
  • Questions: Questions are also easy to forget once you actually get the chance to ask them, so write them down. If you’ve been experiencing any symptoms, include them in the list, detailing when you began to notice them and if certain activities or times of the day provoke them.
  • Names and phone numbers: If any issues arise, you’ll want to have the contact information of a loved one handy. You should also bring the names and phone numbers of any other medical professionals you see, in case your doctor needs to make a referral.  

While You’re There

Paying attention during your doctor appointment is just as important as everything you do ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to slow down or better explain something. Doctors often have little time to spend with patients, but no doctor wants a patient to leave their appointment feeling confused. Ask as many questions as you need to, and consider taking notes based on what the doctor and nurse tell you, or even asking for a written report. Many seniors realize that they’ve forgotten what their providers told them as soon as they get home, and end up having to call in for information.  

A final piece of advice: Relax! Many older patients are nervous about their appointments because they’ve neglected their health for so long. Your doctor isn’t going to judge you or criticize your habits — they just want to help put you on the right path. Knowing this can help you better communicate with your provider and take in whatever information they share with you.

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