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10 Questions Older Adults Should Never Skip at Their Doctor’s Visit

Mar 06, 2024|Health & Wellness

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As we get older, our health remains our most precious asset, especially as we approach retirement. Open and informative conversations with our health care providers become increasingly valuable in ensuring that we can live healthy lives filled with vitality and joy. By asking the right questions, we can better understand our health and act to manage any problems. 

Embrace open communication with your health care provider – think of them as your partners in safeguarding your well-being. Engage in conversations that foster trust and understanding.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions, no matter how simple or complex they may seem. Remember, there are no silly questions when it comes to your health. If you’re not sure where to start, here are 10 important questions to ask your doctor during your next appointment. But first, a couple of tips.

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Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is not intended as medical advice. It is for general informational purposes only. Remember to consult with a qualified health care professional for personalized medical guidance and recommendations. Always seek the advice of your health care provider before making any health-related decisions.

Regular doctor visits are important to your health

Take a tip from Ben Franklin: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Even if you feel fine, make regular checkups part of your regular routine. Too many of us put off that doctor visit until symptoms start or worsen. Use your Medicare Part B coverage to get an annual wellness exam.

Be open and honest

The doctor-patient relationship is an important one. Direct communication is key.

When you say how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing, you’re making the doctor’s job easier. The more information they have, the better chance you have of getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Write notes and maybe even rehearse what you want to say beforehand.

Be truthful about your medical history and symptoms, even if they seem embarrassing. Doctors have likely heard it all before.

Five Effective Communication Tips

  1. Don’t be shy. Give your doctor all the details.
  2. Be truthful. Don’t minimize or overstate your symptoms.
  3. Be clear and concise.
  4. State your preferences. Ask for more options if needed.
  5. Repeat or rephrase your message if you don’t feel heard.

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10 questions to ask your doctor

  1. Should I be concerned about any health risks?

    This question opens the door to a conversation about your current health and what you should be looking out for in the future. We all want to know if any aches, pains or other symptoms are causes for concern. Review the results of screenings and blood tests, focusing on any readings outside the normal range. 

  2. What health screenings and tests do I need?

    At a routine exam, doctors will check your body mass index (BMI), skin conditions, cholesterol and blood pressure. You may also be due for various cancer screenings. Based on your age, lifestyle and current health, your doctor will recommend the right health screenings for older adults.

    This is a good time to bring up your family history. You should mention heart disease, cancer, strokes and many other conditions that run in the family. You may be a good candidate for genetic testing that can uncover certain risks.

  3. What are the side effects of my prescribed medications?

    Discuss medication management with your doctor and pharmacist. If you are already experiencing side effects, ask the doctor for a different dosage or prescription.

    Older adults often have a team of health care professionals prescribing medications. Give each doctor your list to prevent unforeseen drug interactions. Check if any of the medications can be eliminated and if the vitamins or supplements you’re taking interfere with a drug’s effectiveness.

  4. How can I manage my chronic conditions?

    If you’re dealing with chronic medical conditions, see your primary care physician or specialist often. Discuss ways to monitor and manage your symptoms between visits. Your doctor can also advise you on lifestyle changes that could improve your daily life. 

  5. What lifestyle changes can improve my health?

    You probably already know the answer to this question. However, when a doctor confirms it, it can give you the strength to make a positive change. They can also provide you with information from reputable sources to help you get started on making changes.

  6. Should I make any changes to my nutrition and diet?

    You’ll see lots of articles online linking senior nutrition and health. Your doctor can separate fact from fiction and share the latest research on what’s best for you and your body, or provide you a referral to a dietitian for more in-depth nutritional support.

  7. What are the best activities and exercises for me?

    Exercise goes a long way in maintaining health, but not every activity is good for everybody. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist about what you can do safely to preserve and expand your capabilities based on your physical condition.

  8. Are there any mental health or cognitive assessments you would recommend?

    As part of your annual wellness visit, your doctor will be checking for signs of depression and loss of cognitive abilities. The tests and questions are very basic, so if you believe your memory or thinking skills have deteriorated more than what is normal for aging adults, now is the time to bring it up. Your doctor will send you to a specialist in mental health services for older adults.

  9. How often should I see you or my specialists?

    That answer depends on your current health, test results and age. If you are experiencing new or worsening symptoms, don’t wait. Schedule an appointment. But a good rule to follow is always see your doctor at least once a year for your annual wellness checkup.

  10. Do you know of any resources or support that will help me manage my health?

    Medical professionals cringe when they hear that you are looking up symptoms online. Yes, there are plenty of reliable resources, but even those can cause undue concern. Your doctor and other staff members will be happy to point you to resources and groups that focus on healthy aging.

Download these 10 questions here.

If you don’t understand something, ask the doctor

Medical terms are notoriously hard to comprehend. Don’t feel foolish. Ask the doctor to repeat the information more simply. Say it back in your own words to make sure you really understand.

Change and revise your questions over time

With each visit, talk about any changes you’ve noticed in your health. Over time, your questions will be more insightful and in-depth.

Be your own advocate

If you have concerns about any health matter or treatment plan, don’t let it slide. Ask the doctor for more information, tests or alternative treatments. Getting a second opinion can be a literal lifesaver.

Set health goals and make a plan

After getting an exam and test results, you may feel overwhelmed. What to work on first? Weight? Cholesterol? Diet? Your doctor can help you set priorities so you can concentrate on the most important factors. 

Get the most out of your visit

Did you know that people forget 40%-80% of medical information immediately? If you receive concerning news, your emotions take over and you’ll remember even less. To help you retain important information, follow these steps:

  • Bring a list of questions and concerns.
  • Ask a relative or friend to come with you.
  • Take notes during your appointment.
  • Repeat back information to make sure you understand.
  • Learn how to access your medical information through your health system’s online portal.

Take an active role in your health

Remember, effective communication is a two-way street. Your health care provider is there to support you on your journey toward optimal health. Prepare for your appointment by always bringing a list of topics and questions to ask the doctor. By actively participating in your care and engaging in open dialogue, you can feel better about your health and gain confidence to enjoy your retirement years.

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