Senior Living: Visiting your doctor

Q. Now that I've made my list to take to the doctor, what do I need to be aware of once I'm there?

The things you can bring to your visit that make talking with your doctor easier include: your visit plan; glasses and/or hearing aids, if you use them; and a family member or friend.

Sometimes it is helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to your doctor visit. During your visit, this person can remind you about what you want to talk about, take notes, and help you remember what your doctor says. You can still have time alone with your doctor to talk about personal matters.

Rank your list of concerns and questions by importance.

Talk about the three or four most important concerns or questions first. If you put off talking about the items that are bothering you most, you may run out of time to talk about them during the visit. Afterwards, if you have time, you can talk about the other things on your list.

Use your visit plan to stick to the point.

Your doctor may not have a lot of time to talk with you. Therefore, it is important for you to stay focused on what you planned to talk about. For example, give a brief summary of what is bothering you most, when the symptom started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better.

Remember, your doctor may not be able to answer all of your questions.

Most doctors will tell you when they do not have answers. They may be able to help you find the information you need or refer you to another doctor, a specialist, who can answer your questions.

It is important for you to discuss sensitive topics with your doctor because they can affect your health. Sensitive health issues, like sexual problems or memory loss, concern many older people, but they are not just normal parts of aging. You may find some of these topics embarrassing, but remember, your doctor is used to talking about personal matters.

A fall can cause injury and short- or long-term loss of independence. It is normal to fear falling, but you do not want to let your fear affect your daily activities. You can talk to your doctor about things you can do to lessen your chances of falling, such as exercises to improve your balance.

It is normal to feel sad and mourn when you have a loss. However, tell your doctor if you feel sad all the time or for more than a few weeks. Also, tell your doctor if you have less energy, are not hungry, have trouble sleeping, or have little interest in life. These could be signs of depression, a health problem that your doctor can help you with.

Older people sometimes have problems making it to the bathroom. Problems controlling your bladder or bowel are called incontinence and it can often be treated. Your doctor may suggest exercises, ways to change your bathroom habits, medications, or surgery to help with this problem.

Many older adults worry about not being able to think and remember as well as they did when they were younger. For most older adults, these abilities do not change too much with age. Let your doctor know if you have been confused or have problems remembering recent events. Be specific about the changes you have noticed. This will help your doctor find the cause for these problems.

Sometimes people become unhappy with their doctor. You may feel upset by something your doctor or the doctor's staff has said or done. Do not avoid your doctor. Be honest with him or her about your feelings so that you both can work out the problem.

Next week I'll discuss hospital stays.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, e-mail it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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