Don't Be Afraid to Speak Up: 6 Important Questions to Ask Your Loved One's Doctor
Did you know that 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two? Potentially life-threatening illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer require regular monitoring, but if your elderly loved one is unable to grasp the severity of their condition or advocate for themselves, they may experience a rapid decline or symptoms that could be avoided.
To lower the risk of these and other potentially negative outcomes, consider attending your senior’s doctor’s appointments. The more information and insight you have, the easier it is to make adjustments at home that can improve their quality of life.
Doctors and specialists are incredibly busy and may not be familiar with your senior’s current condition or medical history. Therefore, it’s important to arrive at the appointment prepared with a list of questions. Don’t worry about coming off as annoying or pesky, any medical professional worth their salt will be happy to educate and inform. If you’re unsure about the types of questions you should ask, start here.
1. What is my loved one’s diagnosis? Medical terms like osteoporosis and vertigo are used in everyday life, but many of us have little understanding of what they mean or the symptoms they present. If you’re new to caregiving, it’s important you have a thorough understanding of your loved one’s condition. Bring a piece of paper and writing utensil to their appointment so you can take notes throughout.
Complimentary questions you might want to ask include –– What is the prognosis? What are the treatment options? How can I help minimize uncomfortable symptoms? And will we need to meet with a specialist?
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2. Is it time to schedule any preventive screenings? Seniors are much more likely to experience serious health problems compared to their younger counterparts. While there’s no way to prevent these issues entirely, preventive screenings can alert you to serious problems early on, before they present obvious symptoms. The type of preventive screenings that will most benefit your senior depends on their current health, family history, age, and gender. Ask their provider to make recommendations that align with their needs.
3. Would a prescription medication be beneficial? Some health problems like high blood pressure and high cholesterol respond well to healthy lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. But if your elderly loved one is suffering from dementia or they’re physically disabled, they may need a multi-layered approach. Fortunately, there are countless medications available that may be able to ease symptoms and improve their quality of life.
If your senior’s provider recommends a particular medication, make sure to ask questions about the proper dosage, how frequently they should take it, if there are any side-effects, and how it reacts with other medications.
4. How will this medication affect my loved one in the long-term? If your senior does end up needing medication, they’ll likely take it for the remainder of their lives. Unfortunately, long-term use of certain medicines increases the risk of vitamin and nutritional deficiencies. Ask their doctor what you can do to prevent this from occurring. Recommendations might include dietary changes, nutritional supplements, or a combination of both.
5. Should I consider occupational, physical, or speech therapy? As your loved one ages, they might find it difficult to perform routine tasks like bathing, getting dressed, or eating. Even if your senior is in relatively good health, they’re likely to experience decreased muscle mass, stiff joints, and difficulty balancing. A professional therapist can recommend easy at-home exercises and rehabilitation techniques to ensure they remain mobile, active, and injury-free.
6. What can I do to prevent the risk of falls or other accidents? Falls are a leading health concern for older adults. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says 36 million seniors fall each year. Balance begins to decline as you age. When combined with the potential side-effects of prescription medications and musculoskeletal ailments like osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, the risk of falling increases significantly. Ask your senior’s doctor if they can recommend any specific tests. You may also want to inquire about things you can do at home to limit falls or exercises that promote stability.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of questions by any means, but we hope you find the insights useful. By asking your loved one’s doctor questions, you can improve their health and happiness and champion their cause. It takes a bit of extra effort but is absolutely worth it.
Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.