How to Navigate Drs. Visits

Reviewed by  
Caregiving 101

Planning for the visit

 

  • Consider the urgency of the visit: Doctor visits can be overwhelming and preparing both mentally and physically can make the whole experience much more pleasant and effective. Understand that physicians can be quite popular, and it may not be possible to make an appointment right away. It may need to be a few weeks in the future. 
    • If there is an issue that is urgent or requires quick action, ask to speak to the doctor’s nurse or medical assistant (MA) to determine what to do. They may be able to assist in getting an earlier appointment or instruct you what steps to take right now such as going to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care. 
    • They might also have the physician call you after hours with instructions. 

 

  • Be Prepared to Wait: When making the appointment, understand that physicians and other healthcare providers often overbook and/or have emergencies with patients that take precedence. Consider that you might have to wait even up to 2-3 hours to be seen. 
    • Don’t expect that if your appointment is for 10 AM, that you’ll always be seen by 10AM! Ask the receptionist how long the typical wait might be and plan accordingly. 
    • Take some water, a book, or your own magazines, and wear comfortable clothing to the doctor's office

 

  • Prepare Questions: Make a list of questions you have and those that your senior has. Use index cards so you can write the answers or notes on the same card and refer to it later, and transfer the information to your Care Journal,  accessible through your RSC login.
    • You can keep track of this information in the Care Journal, as well as add your answers when you return from the visit. 
    • Also, it’s a good idea to use the Care Journal and/or keep a notebook to keep track of any signs or symptoms the senior has had along with the date and time as well as anything that seemed to precipitate the issue or problem.  
    • If anything helped make the issue better be sure to make note of this. Write down your questions in the notebook so you can add them to your index cards when preparing for the visit.
    • Add the information to your Care Journal to keep it up to date and maintain a permanent record. 
      • TIP: Although your loved one's primary care doctor should have a copy of their medical history / medical records, including all vaccines and chronic conditions, it helps to keep your own record for personal reference

 

  • Have an up-to-date list of medications: Make a list in your Care Journal of current medications including the dose and how often they are taken. (Make note of the pharmacy name as well.) Keep this updated and it’s also a good idea for your senior to carry a copy in their wallet, and for you to have a copy as well. 
    • This will refresh your memory and help make the visit less stressful. It can also be a useful resource should you need to have another family member go to the visit instead of you. 
    • All of this can and should be added to your Care Journal to keep it all in one accessible place. 
      • TIP: Purchase a portable file box and create file folders for each physician, laboratory, or facility and keep copies of your questions and answers in the folders. Also write down anything important such as where to park, which elevator to take, names of the receptionist, nurse or MA, etc. 

 

Going to the visit

 

  • Understand Privacy Concerns: If your senior is balking at the idea of you accompanying him or her, remind them that as they get older, they’re likely to need more medications or treatments and it’s always handy to have a second pair of eyes and ears watching and listening because time with the doctor can be limited. As a team you’ll be able to get the information you need and have better outcomes. 

 

  • Bring Health Insurance Cards: Have insurance cards ready to present if requested. The MD office will need to see (and make a copy of) the physical card, but you should file a copy in your Care Journal as a backup. When you check in, ask how long the wait might be. Then relax and settle in.

  • Be prepared with your questions: Have your index cards (and a pen or pencil) ready when you get to see the doctor and let him/her know you have a few important questions about your loved one's medical condition. Check with your Care Journal for any questions or symptoms you may have forgotten to write down. 
    • If you have any health concerns, this is a good time to bring them up
    • Write down the responses and ask for more details or explanation if you don’t understand something: Listen carefully and take notes. Add the information to your Care Journal after the visit so you can always refer back to it. 

 

  • Ask more questions: As the care visit progresses, ask questions if something is unclear. Take notes so you can refer back later And be sure to add to your Care Journal. 

 

  • Medication changes: If new medications are suggested or prescribed, lab work is ordered, or other treatment or tests are ordered, be sure to get the information you need to feel comfortable and to be able to share with their spouse or other family. 
    • TIP: Ask about the process for refills and update your RSC Care Journal with any new or changed medications. 

 

  • Before you leave: Be sure you understand what is expected now. 
    • Get all the paperwork you need and know where prescriptions or orders for tests have been sent. 
    • Know when to get the lab work done (i.e. a week before your next MD visit.) Does the senior need to be fasting or not?  
    • If other consultations or treatments (such as Physical Therapy) are needed, know when to schedule or start and what the need and expectation is. 

 

NOTE: The doctor may ask the nurse to come in to finish up with your questions or education. Nurses often handle patient’s questions and have the skills and knowledge base to do so. 

 

Implement any changes and plan for follow up

 

  • Ask for copies of information: Get copies of laboratory results or any tests that may have been done for this visit and file in the file box when you get home. You might need to give a copy of these to any new physician or care team. 

 

  • Next appointment: Make the appointment for the next visit before you leave. This can always be changed later, but it doesn’t get forgotten this way. If someone else will have to accompany the senior, make these arrangements as soon as possible. 

 

  • Update family and caregivers: Later, debrief with your senior, their spouse and other involved family members and caregivers as this also helps you to reinforce all that transpired today, what’s changed, and what’s expected moving forward to improve outcomes and quality of life for all. 
    • Remember to let them know of any medical tests, or treatment plans that have been updated.
    • Keeping other family members on the same page helps them feel involved and everyone has heard the same information. Reinforcing with your senior helps to improve the odds that they will remember and follow through.
    • Group emails or texts can be quite useful and creates a paper trail. If you need help, now is the time to make assignments. Caring for your aging parents is a process. Coming together to help each other creates a team and helps ensure success. 

 

Remember: Use the Care Journal to keep track of all the changes and use the information to keep the patient and all their loved ones on the same page.

 

What Is An E-Visit With A Doctor?

An e-visit, virtual care visit, or video visit is a doctor’s visit that takes place virtually via video call. Telemedicine became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic when online doctor's appointments were a necessity. However many doctors are still offering it as an option, if an office visit isn't needed. 

 

How To Do A Virtual Doctor Visit

If your loved one is nervous about using virtual or telehealth appointments, here are a few ideas to make the process smoother:

  • Double check that their insurance covers telehealth visits
  • Make sure the internet connection is good prior to the call
  • Encourage lots of video call practice to family members prior to the appointment
  • Write down a list of questions to ask
  • If possible, be there to help your loved one as needed
  • After the call, offer lots of praise for trying something new