What Do I Need to Tell the Doctor as A Senior?

There was a time when doctors took the lead, discovering what was wrong with a patient, prescribing medication, finding a solution, and helping the patient along the way. Today, doctors have very little time to devote to each appointment, so patients are expected to be more knowledgeable and forthcoming. 

You can’t just sit in the chair, stay quiet, and expect them to work their magic. You need to be vocal, clear, and as thorough as your allotted time will allow. 

The next time you’re preparing for a visit to your family doctor, make sure you discuss the following.

Your Symptoms

Symptoms are signs of disease and are used by your doctor to make a diagnosis, suggest a treatment, and recommend tests. The problem with symptoms is that they become a fact of life as you get older, so it’s hard to know what’s serious and what’s not. 

The doctor doesn’t have time to hear about every single ache, pain, twitch, and rash, and if you reel them off one-by-one you’ll only dilute the most important ones.

If you sit down for a chat with a friend and they suddenly list everything that’s wrong with their life, from an ongoing argument they have with their boss to a late delivery from UPS, a toothache, and a minor rash, how likely are you to notice something serious amongst all the insignificance?

It’s the same with your doctor, so stick to the things that matter and have recently troubled you and/or gotten worse, including:

  • Rashes that have grown
  • Concerning lumps and bumps
  • Persistent coughs
  • Significant and regular changes in bowel habits
  • Memory loss
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Aches and pains that won’t go away
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression and anxiety

It’s not just the symptoms that matter, as your doctor will also want to know:

  • When did the symptoms first present themselves?
  • Are the symptoms present at all times?
  • Do they get worse at specific times of day?
  • Do they worsen with certain foods, drink, or activities?
  • How do they impact your life?

Your Habits

Patients fall into daily habits that contribute to their symptoms and problems, and this often happens without their knowledge. A skilled healthcare professional who knows about your habits can trace many of your problems to the source and find a solution that doesn’t require strong medication.

For instance, you may feel tired, anxious, and depressed as a result of a poor sleep schedule. You may have convinced yourself that you don’t need lots of sleep, as that’s what you’re used to and that’s how you survived when you were younger. Things change as you age, though. You may also be on medication that makes you more susceptible to fatigue, for instance.

Prostate problems can impact your quality of sleep and mood as well, while everything from the length of time you spend sitting to your diet can affect bowel habits and cause aches/pains.

Tell your doctor about your day, highlighting anything that is unusual and different. Be open and honest and don’t hold anything back. If you can’t be honest with your doctor, who can you be honest with? Don’t let your modesty hide a potentially serious health issue, and open up about your bowel movements, urination frequency, sex life, and anything else that might be relevant.

Your doctor also needs to know about your diet, whether you smoke or drink, and if you get any exercise. It is estimated that as many as 8 out of 10 patients lie about their habits because they’re worried about disappointing their doctor. They lie about how much they drink, how much they exercise, and whether or not they eat healthily. You need to tell your doctor these things.

If you insist that you eat a 100% whole food vegan diet and exercise 5 times a day, imagine their confusion when they run blood tests and discover high levels of cholesterol. At best, it prevents them from providing the help you need, while at worst they may believe you have a serious health condition. Instead, you’ve simply lied about a few bad habits.

Your Side Effects

Medication side effects are common, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to talk about them. If you’re experiencing any side effects that are impacting your life, from tiredness to insomnia and from frequent urination to constipation, speak about them with your doctor.

They may offer to lower the dose or prescribe you something that can offset those side effects. For instance, constipation and diarrhea can be fixed with simple, low-risk medications that rarely cause side effects of their own, while insomnia has numerous solutions and the doctor may begin with natural remedies or basic lifestyle changes.

Side effects may also hint at something more serious, so the sooner you express these the better.

Your Concerns

Any concerns you have, whether you’re worried about a medication, a test, or a recommended treatment, should be addressed. Your doctor isn’t just there to diagnose you, give you medications, and send you on your way. They can also alleviate your concerns and put your mind at rest.

Many patients stress over their conditions, medications, and treatments, and doctors deal with these concerns on a daily basis. They understand that physical health is closely linked with mental health and will generally do what they can to ease your mental anguish.

Don’t Deviate from the Point

While it sounds like there’s a lot to cover, it’s important to keep everything as brief as possible and to not deviate from the topic at hand. Your doctor likely won’t have a lot of time to devote to your appointment and you’ll probably need to wait a few weeks before you can get another one, so you don’t have time to waste.

If it helps, plan your visit in advance. Grab a piece of paper and quickly jot down the questions you want to ask your doctor and the concerns you want them to address. For example, should they be looking at anything in particular? Will you require a blood pressure or pulse check?