An important part of caregiving is bringing your loved one to appointments with health care providers. To get the most out these visits, it's important for you and your loved one to plan ahead for the visit. By planning for the visit together, you can make sure you both get the most from the appointment. If the provider has an online patient portal, ask your loved one if you can have access to it.
Start by talking with your loved one about the upcoming visit.
- Discuss what issues to talk about and who will bring them up. For example, if there are sensitive issues such as incontinence, discuss how to talk about them with the provider.
- Talk with your loved one about their concerns and share yours as well.
- Discuss how involved you will be at the appointment. Will you be in the room the entire time, or just at the beginning? Talk about whether you both may want some time alone with the provider.
- How can you be most helpful? Discuss whether you should do most of the talking during the appointment or just be there to support your loved one. It's important to support your loved one's independence as much as possible, while making sure important issues are addressed.
- If your loved one is unable to speak clearly for themselves due to dementia or other health problems, then you'll need to take the lead during the appointment.
Deciding these things ahead of time will ensure that you are in agreement about what you both want from the appointment.
Use the Time Wisely
While at the appointment, it's helpful to stay focused:
- Tell the provider about any new symptoms.
- Discuss any changes in appetite, weight, sleep, or energy level.
- Bring all medicines or a complete list of all medicines your loved one takes, including over-the counter medicines and supplements.
- Share information about any medicine side effects or adverse reactions.
- Tell the doctor about other doctor appointments or emergency room visits.
- Share any important life changes or stresses, such as the death of a loved one or pet.
- Discuss any questions or concerns about an upcoming surgery or procedure.
To make the best use of your time with the doctor:
- Prioritize your concerns. Bring a written list and share it with the provider at the start of the appointment. If the provider has an online patient portal, send this list in advance of the appointment. That way you'll be sure to cover the most important issues first.
- Bring a recording device or notebook and pen so that you can make a note of the information the doctor provides you. Be sure to tell the doctor that you are keeping a record of the discussion.
- Be honest. Encourage your loved one to share concerns honestly, even if it's embarrassing.
- Ask questions. Make sure you and your loved one understand everything the doctor has said before leaving.
- Speak up if needed to make sure all important issues are discussed.
After the Appointment
Talk about how the appointment went with your loved one. Did the meeting go well, or were there things either of you would like to change the next time?
Go over any instructions from the doctor and see if either of you have any questions. If so, contact the doctor's office with your questions.
Markle-Reid MF, Keller HH, Browne G. Health promotion of community-living older adults. In: Fillit HM, Rockwood K, Young J, eds. Brocklehurst's Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2017:chap 97.
National Institute on Aging website. 5 ways to make the most of your time at the doctor's office. www.nia.nih.gov/health/5-ways-make-most-your-time-doctors-office. Updated February 3, 2020. Accessed August 8, 2022.
National Institute on Aging website. How to prepare for a doctor's appointment. www.nia.nih.gov/health/how-prepare-doctors-appointment. Updated February 3, 2020. Accessed August 8, 2022.
National Institute on Aging website. What do I need to tell the doctor? www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-do-i-need-tell-doctor. Updated February 3, 2020. Accessed August 8, 2022.
Zarit SH, Zarit JM. Family caregiving. In: Bensadon BA, ed. Psychology and Geriatrics. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 2.
Review Date 4/17/2022
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.