Planning for Your Medical Care as an Older Adult
Choose your Doctor Wisely
Your doctor needs to be someone you feel comfortable talking to, understands your health and is skilled in addressing your primary health needs. A geriatrician is a doctor who specializes in treating older adults. Make a list of the qualities you find important when choosing a doctor and begin your search. Some things to consider include the MD’s skill level, special training, location, connection to your preferred hospital, sex, how their office handles phone calls and emergencies, and your insurance coverage.
Prepare for your appointment
- Prepare a complete health history listing your major illnesses, surgeries, medical conditions, previous MD’s and their addresses. Keeping this in a notebook for the long term is advised.
- Bring a list of all the prescribed medications, over the counter medications, and vitamins you are taking, along with their strengths and dosages. Put the things you are allergic to on this list. List any side effects you are experiencing.
- Make a list of your symptoms, stressful life events, or life changes you are experiencing. Describe symptoms in detail:
- When did they start?
- Are they constant?
- When do you experience them?
- Does anything make them better?
- How do they affect your activities?
Update your doctor on any specialists you have seen or tests you have done; if he ordered tests request the results.
Speak frankly to your doctor
- Make sure you can see and hear as well as possible
- Have a list of questions for your doctor. Appointments are short and your doctor is busy. Make a list of questions and prioritize them. Bring a friend to your appointments to take notes and remind you of questions you may have forgotten.
- Your doctor may ask you what you eat, how your life is going, and specifics about your sleep, whether you smoke or drink, about your sex life, etc. – be open and honest as this is how you can get the best care.
- Discuss ways to prevent health issues and ways to maintain your health.
Get information about testing, diagnosis & treatment
- If medical testing is being recommended ask:
- Why the test is being done?
- How should you prepare for the test?
- Are there any side effects?
- How will you find out the results of the test?
- What will the tests tell us?
- Write down all the things your MD recommends; get copies of your prescriptions and make sure you understand the orders.
- Once you have a diagnosis have the doctor tell you the name of the condition and:
- Why he thinks you have it?
- What caused the condition?
- How it will affect you and how long it will last?
- Can it be treated or cured?
- How will it affect your life?
Consider and discuss the choices, risks and benefits of all treatment recommendations. Make a decision on treatments after considering the pros and cons of the intervention with your MD. Use their medical knowledge and your values as a guide.
Questions to ask your surgeon include:
- Ask about your surgeon’s reputation and education; check the hospitals ability to care for you and your condition; check the infection rates of the hospital.
- What is the success rate of the operation?
- How many operations of this type has your surgeon done successfully?
- What are the possible problems that may occur during or after surgery?
- What kind of pain will you have?
- What kind of anesthesia will you have?
- What are the risks for someone of your age and health status?
- How long will you need to stay in the hospital?
- How long will it take you to recover?
- How long will it be before you are back to normal?
If your diagnosis is life changing, discussing your thoughts with a trusted family member or friend is advisable.
If you go to the Emergency Room:
- have your health insurance information,
- a list of your medications and allergies,
- a list of your medical problems,
- the names and phone numbers of your doctors and 2 close friends, and
- your living will, POST and/or Durable Power Of Attorney for Health Care (DPOAH).
- Do not take large sums of money, numerous credit cards or valuable jewelry to the Emergency Room.
- Get clear written instructions when leaving the hospital.
At all doctor appointments:
- Take notes during all medical appointments and procedures if possible
- Take a friend if you can.
- If you are not able to take notes during the appointments make notes directly afterwards.
- Keep all your notes in one notebook and have a folder for all your medical information.
- Take your notebook to all appointments.
Castle Rock Services has skilled Care Managers available 24/7 to help you navigate these sometimes-difficult situations. Contact us for more information.