Dear Mary
Productive Doctor Appointments

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Dear Mary,

My Dad has asked me to attend all of his medical appointments. He has had a stroke, his mind is still sharp but his body is not. There are many questions that I would like to ask the doctor, but feel very uncomfortable asking them, with my Dad in the room. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks

Mike

Dear Mike:

I struggled with this problem for quite awhile, until I got very creative. I wanted to ask the doctors so many questions, but did not want to hurt my parent’s feelings or make them feel like children. Based on my experience, here is what I suggest:

  • Make sure that the doctor has on file who is the POA for your parent. If you are the POA, attending these visits, information and cooperative will be much easier. If you are not the POA & you are taking your parent to medical appointments, I strongly suggest that you work with the actual POA and a lawyer. Without something written and legal, it is highly likely that the doctor will tell you nothing. If you want your questions answered, put the law on your side, and get the permission required to have your questions answered.
  • I often wrote out the questions that I wanted the doctor to answer. Depending on the doctor and their style I would either:
    • Hand in my written questions to his Admin. Assistant while we were in the waiting area
    • Hand them to the doctor as we were walking into the room (assuming my parents did not see me do this)
    • Put my questions on top of the file where he could see it

After doing this a few times with doctors, they knew what to expect. It was a matter of training the doctors. Many times the doctors would read my questions and write out their answers on my sheet of paper for me to review later.

Other times, the doctor would just talk with my parents and answer the questions in their general conversation. My questions were answered – blurred in with other topics. This was great, because my parents really did not link everything together.

  • I remember one doctor who would not answer any of my written questions. I actually had to sign myself up as a patient and book my own appointments with this doctor. The doctor was able to bill the system for my visit and we had very frank conversations. I liked this best. He could spend a few extra minutes with me, coaching me and helping me to understand what was going to happen as my parents grew sicker. He got paid for my visit and I got all the information required at the time to plan all of our lives.
  • If at all possible, do not let your Dad go to appointments alone. There are often important points missed, not heard or not understood. Avoiding future confusion about what happened at an appointment can make life easier for all. If you cannot attend each appointment, I strongly suggest that you have a trusted person go into the appointments with your parent.
  • Keep a written log of the appointment. The log should include what was said and what the next steps are. This appointment log should be done in duplicate. One copy for you and one kept with your parent, so that they can refer to it later.
  • Rarely are doctor appointments on schedule. Doctor offices have waiting rooms – clearly that is the perfect name for them – it seems that you can wait forever to actually see the doctor. I mention this because it is an important point. There is much more time involved in waiting to see the doctor than the time actually spent with the doctor. You need to plan your day accordingly. It may take a couple of hours to actually drive to the appointment, wait and then drive your Dad back home. You cannot show your frustration with the system while with your Dad. It is not his fault that things take so long; you will only cause him to feel guilty. Spare him the guilt; build your day around the appointment.

Good luck with the appointments.

Mary

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Caregiving Matters

Mary is a daughter. She also Chairs our charity. Mary has also held Director roles on three other boards, most recently with The Palcare Network of York Region.

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