“Whenever I take my father to the doctor, he clams up! I don’t understand why he’ll tell me what is bothering him, but he refuses to talk about it with his physician. I am worried he isn’t giving his doctor enough information to get the help he needs. Do you have any advice?” – Sheldon from Tucker

You are not alone; many older people do not share much information either with their doctors during an exam or with their families concerning their health or prescribed treatment. Older patients grew up in a time when doctors were authorities who examined patients from top to bottom to look for any symptoms. Today’s doctors do not have the luxury of unlimited time during regular office visits and instead focus on the information patients share about their health. The patient-doctor relationship is a partnership, and effectively communicating with doctors is so important to better health care.

Stay in Control

You or your loved one should prepare for a doctor’s visit by getting organized and making a list. Start with a thorough medical history and include necessary information such as:

  • Names of treating physicians and dates seen
  • Any prescriptions, over the counter medications, herbal supplements, and vitamins, including dose amount and frequency
  • Insurance information
  • Any known allergies
  • Recent medical issues and treatment
  • Any surgeries or medical tests administered

Most offices have much of that information on file, but if you are seeing a physician outside of a hospital group or for the first time, you should provide accurate information to confirm their records are correct.

A prepared list of questions to ask during an exam can also keep you and your loved one focused. It’s easy to get distracted or to forget your questions while making small talk and discussing test results. You may also want to take notes to review later to remember any details from the visit, so be sure to have a pen and paper with you.

A Little Help

Your loved one may prefer to go alone, but you should have a conversation about the need for support and advocacy. You, a caregiver, or other family member can be very helpful during doctor’s visits to confirm that any problems are discussed, especially about the ones the physician doesn’t know to ask. Another smart approach is working with an Aging Life Care™ Professional who often has a working relationship with medical providers and can advocate for and offer guidance to you and your loved one. Explain to your father how helpful an additional person can be when communicating with doctors to ensure he is getting the best care.

Start a Conversation

Talk with your father to see how comfortable he feels when communicating with doctors and explain to him how you or an Aging Life Care™ manager can be an asset to his health. It may take more than one discussion, but hopefully he will cooperate with your efforts to maintain his dignity and quality of life.

Good luck!


2 replies
  1. Rebecca Gardner
    Rebecca Gardner says:

    I’m glad you mentioned that we should have a complete list of medications, supplements, and vitamins that we or our loved one is taking at the appointment. I want to help my mom find a primary care facility near her home since she’s been having general fatigue and some stomach issues lately. Thanks for teaching me how to prepare for the doctor’s appointment to make sure things go smoothly for us at the medical facility.

    • Lisa Kaufman
      Lisa Kaufman says:

      Hi Rebecca,
      There are many reasons why our loved ones might not open up with their physicians, including wanting to be a “good” patient, or worrying that if anyone knew they were struggling, they might force a move to a care facility. Bring a strong self-advocate with medical providers is always needed, and when loved ones are not able to do so for whatever reason, it is important to have someone step into the role of advocate. Providing a list to providers of ALL medications, OTC and supplements is very important as there might be contraindications. If you are not feeling savvy as the advocate for your mom, hiring a Care Manager http://www.aginglifecare.org is a great resource. We “speak medical”.
      Best of luck,


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