Your parent may be perfectly able to go to their own doctor’s appointments, but as most people know, it’s so helpful to have an advocate during an office visit. It’s nice to have someone else there to ask questions about treatment options, symptoms, and anything else that’s a concern—especially if the patient isn’t feeling very well.
The important thing to remember is never be afraid to ask questions. That’s what the doctor is there for, to help you fully understand your parent’s diagnosis or symptoms.
To help you and your parent know what to ask during the next doctor’s visit, here are some examples of important questions.
7 Questions to Ask Your Parent’s Doctor During the Next Office Visit
1. This is what I found online. Is it accurate?
If you think you have an idea of what your parent’s illness is after doing some research on your own, it’s a good idea to bring that up to your doctor so he or she knows that you already have that on your mind. Then, listen to what their opinion on the matter is.
“You might be on the right track, but seeking the help of a medical professional to interpret your symptoms, exam, and other data is the best way to find out what might be ailing you,” Dr. Justin Young of Doctors Express Santa Clarita advised in a U.S. News and World Report article.
2. Can you tell me more about my parent’s diagnosis?
Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions about the diagnosis your parent receives, as well as any symptoms they have. The Cleveland Clinic has a wonderful list of questions to ask your doctor when it comes to diagnoses and symptoms. You and your loved one might want to ask the following to get the ball rolling:
- How serious is the disease or condition and how will it affect my parent’s daily life?
- What caused the disease or condition?
- What symptoms should be watched for?
- What tests will be involved in diagnosing the disease or condition?
- How is the disease or condition treated?
3. Do you have a lot of experience with this?
If your parent is dealing with a particularly tricky medical issue, you might want to ask the doctor how many similar cases they’ve treated. That will help you and your loved one get a better idea of how much experience the doctor has with that particular diagnosis.
4. Why are you prescribing that specific medication or treatment?
Ask questions about any medications your parent’s doctor prescribes. Many people ask questions about how and when they should take medications, but they forget to ask why the doctor is prescribing it.
This is a fair question to ask—having faith in your doctor is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask them questions to better understand their decisions.
5. How much will this test cost and how will it affect my parent’s treatment?
Know the cost and value of every test. You never know what your parent’s insurance will cover and what it won’t until you ask, and it’s better to know what you’ll be looking at before a hefty bill arrives.
“‘I don’t know’ or ‘It depends on your insurance’ is not an answer,” Elisabeth Rosenthal, author of “An American Sickness: How Healthcare became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back,” said in a story for PBS NewsHour. “The doctor should give you a ballpark range or the cash price at the center where he or she refers. Many things that sound like simple little tests are now priced at many thousands of dollars.”
Rosenthal went on to advise that you also ask how the test or exam will affect your parent’s treatment.
“If the answer is ‘It won’t, but it might be good to know,’ take a pass,” she said. “Doctors likely feel the need to do something or order something if you have a complaint, especially at a time when office visits can cost over $500.”
6. Can you please include my mom/dad in the conversation?
This might not be necessary with every doctor, but sometimes they can make the mistake of speaking mainly to you because they’ve made certain assumptions about your parent’s state of mind.
As Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D, writes for AARP, “When I first started attending my mother's primary care and specialty medical visits, we met with doctors who would speak only to me, ignoring my mother. Understandably, that hurt her feelings and made her feel dismissed.”
Jacobs and his mother came to a solution—he would join her for the first part of the appointment, then leaving for the waiting room to give his mother time alone with the doctor.
This may or may not work for you and your parent, but if you feel like the doctor is not fully including your parent in the conversation about their health, don’t be afraid to correct them.
7. How can we prevent this from happening again?
If the visit is because of an illness or fall (as opposed to a regular checkup), ask your doctor what can be done to help your parent avoid similar occurrences in the future. Beyond medications, they may be able to suggest lifestyle changes, like a senior-friendly exercise program, to help avoid risk-factors for the thing that brought you and your parent to the office in the first place.
Things to Tell Your Senior Parent’s Doctor
Of course, in addition to questions, there are certain things you’ll want to tell your parent’s doctor. Here are just a few things it’s a good idea to bring up:
Your parent’s name.
If it’s a family physician whose been treating your parent for years, it’s not likely that they’ll confuse them with someone else. However, if you’re seeing a new specialist or making a trip to an urgent care center, it can’t hurt to make absolutely certain that their chart matches your parent.
Medications your parent is taking.
The Cleveland Clinic advises that you bring a list of medications to every doctor’s appointment. Before going with your parent to the doctor’s office, work together to create a thorough list of any medications they might be taking to avoid any harmful interactions with new medications the doctor may prescribe.
Tip: The Cleveland Clinic also says it’s a good idea to include “all over-the-counter medications, home remedies, and herbal medications including tea, vitamins and weight gain or loss products such as shakes, pills or bars” when you make a list of medications.
Any other symptoms you’re concerned about.
Let's face it: sometimes your parent conceals things about their health. They might not want to be open with their doctor about the things that are worrying them, like an increased tendency to lose their balance or decreasing mobility.
If there’s something that has you concerned but your parent isn’t bringing it up on their own, you might want to ask the doctor about it.
However, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your parent beforehand to ensure they aren’t caught off guard—or worse, feel betrayed.
Focusing on Physical Wellness for Older Adults
At The Esquiline, physical wellness is one of the core tenets of our wellness philosophy. To help foster active lifestyles, we offer exercise classes, a 24-hour Fitness Center, and more than 200 beautiful acres to walk, hike, or bike. Learn more by exploring our website, reading our wellness blog, or contacting us online.