When you accompany a friend or family member (either having been asked, or having volunteered) to their appointment, there are a few things you should do to prepare for the appointment and help them get the most out of their doctor visit.
Doctor appointments can be stressful, especially if the patient has impaired vision or hearing. Having someone to act as their advocate can relieve some of the stress.
In order to be the best advocate possible you will need to start by getting together with your friend or family member and writing a few things down!
Begin by getting together, and write things down!
Unless you have a clear picture of the health history of your friend or family member, you will be of little use to them at their appointments. Even if you are only accompanying them to an eye appointment, you need to be aware of all of their health conditions, medications (including vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter medications), allergies, and surgeries. While you may be hesitant to ask seemingly personal questions of your friend or family member, not knowing all the facts can be even more dangerous!
Here's an example:
A family member has asked that you go with them when they see their cardiologist. You agree to join them but, not wanting to get "too personal" you do not ask them about their health history.
You are unaware that they have been popping aspirin like Tic-Tacs® for their frequent headaches and ibuprofen to treat their arthritis pain. If they remember, they also take a multi-vitamin in the morning; if they remember! If they forget to take the multi-vitamin one day, they just take two the following day, and, if they feel like they are catching a cold, they just take four multi-vitamins a day until they start to feel better. You are also unaware that they have a history of blood clots and take the prescription drug, Coumadin® each day.
The cardiologist asks your family member if they are taking their medications. Thinking the doctor only wants to know about the heart medication he/she prescribed, your family member informs the doctor that they are taking their medications without any problems.
The doctor suggests that your family member adds baby aspirin to their medication regime not knowing that your family member is already taking a prescription medication (Coumadin®) and two over-the-counter medications (aspirin and ibuprofen) which act as blood "thinners." The doctor is also not aware that your family member is erratically taking a multi-vitamin which has Vitamin K, a vitamin which is used to reverse the effects of blood thinners, or that your family member has been treated for blood clots.
You don't have to be a nurse or a doctor or even know all the side effects of your family member's medications. As long as you are aware of your family member's health history, you can provide useful information to the doctor and he/she would be able to put all the pieces to the healthcare puzzle together.
Set up a time before your friend or family member's physician appointment be sure you are aware of their medical history and write it down!!! Help your friend/family member create their own healthcare binder. List all their medications including vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and herbs along with their history of surgeries, allergies, and health conditions.
It would be a great idea if you included their physicians' contact information and emergency contacts. You may also suggest that they keep a copy of their insurance card, durable power of health/advanced healthcare directive and a HIPAA/release of medical information form in the binder as well.
You can either make your own forms or you can use the
which I have created for you (be sure to include these forms in your own healthcare binder!)