Helping to navigate the doctor visit

Doctor with patient at home
The practice of medicine in the US has changed dramatically in the last 75 years. Many people over 50 years old remember the doctor making house calls when we developed a virus or were physically in some form of distress.

Home visits became a thing of the past when pay-as-you-go fees were replaced by health insurance. Administrative costs and malpractice insurance forced doctors to enter group practices to manage workload and costs.

Particularly for seniors, having gone through the transition of a changing medical system: busy waiting rooms, long waits, and a sterile exam room is still a big adjustment. The growing impersonal nature of visiting the doctor’s office, often becomes a deterrent for “seeing a doctor”. Many older people still have a hard time accepting that the doctor can only spend 15-20 minutes with them even if all of their concerns have not been met or questions answered.

If you are responsible for getting someone in your care to an appointment, try to be understanding if you are sensing resistance. It can be a frightening experience regardless of whether it is a wellness visit or something more serious.

If you are a full-time caregiver and have a close relationship with the patient, you may be aware of specific medical issues your client is dealing with. If so, try to do some research to be better informed and thus sensitive to their fears and needs.

Hopefully, the doctor has an established relationship with the patient. Doctors specializing in geriatrics are usually more tuned in to senior sensibilities and are frequently more accommodating. Specialists who see a patient less frequently may be less involved, so remembering to take along medication lists and some of the patient’s history can help to make it a more productive appointment.

It is also helpful to make note of any instructions and keep all paperwork organized in a convenient location for your client or family members to access.

As lifespans increase, the medical community continues to evolve in an attempt to meet the needs of the elderly. Stay informed to help the senior who is in your care, stay healthier and age more gracefully.