This is a continuing series using information from the booklet written by the National Institute on Aging working with the National Institutes of Health called: Talking with Your Doctor. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 05-3452 August 2005. Reprinted April 2010.)
How Others Can Help
Many people find it beneficial to involve some of their friends or family in their medical care. The booklet points out that you may feel more confident if someone else is with you. If you choose to have someone come along to the doctor, they can aid you in remembering exactly what you wanted to discuss. They can also remember details that the doctor told you.
Your caretakers can also bring up issues of their own. It’s easy for them to forget that caring for themselves is one of the most important things they can do. When they’re refreshed, you benefit as well. When they have a chance to speak with your doctor, they can express concerns and ask questions. They might wonder what to expect in the future, where they can find encouragement, or what practical ways they can care for themselves.
After the appointment, you can discuss what the doctor said together. “They can remind you of the important points and help you come up with questions to ask next time,” says the booklet.
Even if they don’t go to your actual appointment, they can still be a sounding board. The booklet says, “They can help you practice what you want to say to the doctor before the visit. […] And they can help you come up with questions to ask next time.” Many find it a challenge to express their thoughts to their doctors, so going over it with someone beforehand is very useful.
It’s important, however, to remember that they’re only there to be of assistance. The visit is still between you and your doctor. You don’t want to allow them to take over. You could choose to talk with your doctor alone, and bring your friend or family member in later on in the visit. It’s wise to discuss boundaries and expectations in advance.
Your friends and family aren’t the only way to get support. There’s a multitude of information available to you. The booklet recommends: “the Internet, home medical guides, books and articles available at libraries, national organizations or associations, other institutes within the National Institutes of Health, and self-help groups.” Staying informed and educated is essential to a healthy, working relationship with your doctor.
You can look into government programs that give aid for health care, prescriptions, food and utilities. Approaching a counselor for advice goes a long way towards maintaining your emotional and mental health. Maintain your friendships with those facing the challenges of aging as well.
Taking an active role in your health care will improve your sense of control, even during tumultuous times. It’s easy to feel too helpless when your health deteriorates, but it’s possible to get involved and be productive. By inviting friends or family to help out as well, you build a support system that will assist you in the hard times.