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7 Tips for Helping Seniors at the Doctor: Being a Health Advocate

Being a health advocate for seniors helps them get better medical care

Seniors may need help talking with doctors

Figuring out how to get the best possible health care can be overwhelming.

And for many older adults, a doctor’s appointment can be a confusing blur. 

That’s why having you as their health advocate can improve your older adult’s overall health – especially if they need help keeping track of details, making sure their care is coordinated among multiple doctors, or bringing up sensitive subjects.

To help them get the best medical care from doctors, we share 7 tips for being a great health advocate for your older adult.


How to start helping with medical matters

Being a health advocate means that you’re looking out for your older adult’s best interests.

You’ll learn as you go, so don’t feel like you have to know everything about their health conditions right away.

Start by asking your older adult if they’ll allow you to help. Let them know that you want to make visits easier for them, not completely take over. 

They’ll still be the lead person when talking with the doctor, but you’ll be there to cover additional questions, take notes, or take the lead when they wish.

7 tips to help you be a great health advocate at the doctor’s office

1. Prepare for appointments ahead of time

A few weeks before your older adult’s doctor appointment, start asking them about how they’ve been feeling and if anything is bothering them. 

You’ll get better information when they’re relaxed and have time to think and talk things out rather than when they’re feeling on the spot in the doctor’s office. 

Plus, asking a few separate times over a couple of weeks might help you collect more information as they remember different things.

Write down their questions, concerns, problems, or new symptoms to help you remember important issues and details to discuss during the appointment.

2. Take notes

It’s nearly impossible to keep everything the doctor says in your head or remember months later.

Taking notes at each appointment helps you and your older adult understand why certain decisions were made or what the doctor said.

Writing something down also helps make sure that you understood what the doctor said.

3. Make sure everyone is on the same page

When the doctor explains health conditions or answers your questions, make sure you and your older adult understand what’s being said. 

Part of a doctor’s job is to make sure you understand so you can follow their instructions. Don’t be embarrassed about asking follow-up questions until things are clear. 

For example, you might ask: What does that mean for my older adult? Can you explain that further? Why are you recommending that specific option?

Because if you don’t ask, the doctor is likely to assume that you fully understood what they said.


4. Understand treatment options and side effects

Many seniors are managing multiple chronic health conditions.

Clearly understanding their health conditions, treatment options, and medication side effects keeps them in better overall health.

Key questions you should ask about current or future treatments include:

  1. How will this benefit my older adult?

  2. What are the possible side effects?

  3. Will this affect their ability to function independently?

  4. What are the possibilities or consequences if we choose not to do this?

5. Ask for a full medication review at least once a year

Ask the doctor to do a full medication review at least once a year. 

This checks to see if all the medications are working well together, being taken at the right times and in the right combinations, and if they’re all still needed.

The fastest, easiest, and most accurate way to prepare for this is to bring the actual bottles of everything your older adult takes – prescriptions, non-prescription drugs, vitamins, and supplements. 

That lets the doctor easily see medication names, exact dosages, and prescribing doctors.

6. Bring up concerns about treatment costs

You might be surprised to hear that doctors can actually help with medical costs. 

For example, they might discount their fee, give free samples of expensive prescription medications, find a less expensive (but equally effective) treatment option, or tell you about financial assistance programs. 

But they won’t know to offer this help if you or your older adult don’t ask or express concerns about treatment costs.

7. Coordinate between the entire medical team

Many older adults see multiple doctors or specialists to manage all their health conditions. 

The problem is that these doctors don’t communicate with each other. That’s where you can help.

As the health advocate, you’ll keep track of what each doctor says, does, and prescribes. 

You can share that information with the other doctors to make sure they have the whole picture and that treatments don’t conflict with each other or cause negative drug interactions.

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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