(NDG Wire) Many of us disregard the importance of regular checkups. Some of us avoid doctor visits out of fear and others simply because it’s not part of our routine. When your loved one puts off seeing the doctor, a small health problem can become a more serious one. And some of the most serious health issues don’t always have obvious symptoms.
You may be the one person who can convince your loved one to go to the doctor. Give it a try. Often just by asking some basic questions about diet and lifestyle and running some quick tests, a doctor can assess someone’s health and well-being. The doctor may be able to suggest behaviors or treatments to dramatically lower the risk of serious health problems.
It’s important for people of all ages to see a doctor regularly. People age 50 and over should see a doctor at least once a year. Yet they are often the most resistant to seeing a doctor out of fear of the unknown. But by encouraging a loved one to go, the benefits include:
• Help your loved one learn what he or she needs to do to get and stay healthy.
• Reassure the whole family about your loved one’s health.
• Use this as a reminder to see the doctor yourself.
• You might save a loved one’s life!
Prep before you go
Preparing a little in advance will help your loved one get a lot more out of the doctor visit. Here are some suggestions of information to gather before you go see the doctor.
- Questions for the doctor: Help your loved one take control of his or her health by making sure the doctor addresses all of your questions thoroughly. The best way to do this? Write the questions down in advance. See our sample list of questions below.
- Bring all medications your loved one is taking to the doctor during the visit. By bringing in the bottles, you won’t have to wonder if you remembered everything, and the doctor can see the dose and frequency of each drug.
- Bring some health history information. Write down diseases, surgeries, family history of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
At the doctor visit Your loved one may not want you to join him or her in the examination room. Do not insist on doing so, but do try to ensure that you and your loved one get all of your questions answered before the appointment ends.
If the doctor seems to be rushing through the appointment, be polite but firm in asking for more time for your loved one. Remember: Your loved one is the paying customer here. Do not leave the doctor’s office until ALL of your questions are answered! A staff nurse or physician assistant may also be helpful in answering questions.
If you are in the appointment, take notes for your loved one. If not, urge him or her to write down the doctor’s answers to your questions and any special instructions on lifestyle and diet changes.
If the doctor orders follow-up tests — for example, blood tests for cholesterol, diabetes or other conditions — make sure you get clear instructions on how and where to do the tests and whether there is any out-of-pocket expense. This will help make those tests go more smoothly for your loved one.
If the doctor conveys concern about a potential serious health condition, remain calm. Gather as much information as you can from the doctor, and never agree to any drastic actions – such as scheduling a surgery — without seeking a second opinion from another doctor.
Let’s be real. Based on the doctor visit, your loved one may need to start new medications, begin a daily exercise routine or change his or her diet. Such changes may seem small, but they can feel burdensome to some people. Be sensitive to your loved one and commit as much time as you can to helping them make any transitions that will improve their health.
Lifestyle changes can be hard. For example, it’s not often easy for some people to start exercising.
But most people can start walking more. Walking is easy, convenient and inexpensive. Nearly everyone can do it at any skill, level from grandparents to children. Plus it has the lowest dropout rate and injury rate of all exercise programs.
Studies show that people who have exercise partners — even if for a simple 10-minute walk a few days a week — stick with their exercise plans better than people who try to go it alone. So help your loved one find a neighbor or friend to walk with.
Also, almost everyone who commits to lifestyle changes will occasionally slip up by overeating, sneaking a cigarette or skipping a day or two of exercise. That’s okay! We’re all human. The key is to get your loved one to view those events as minor interruptions, not an end to their health effort.
Keeping a list of medications can help you and your loved one keep track of what they are taking, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines and supplements.
One easy way you can continue to help is by having a daily phone call with your loved one — just a few minutes — to check in and ask how everything’s going.
Take the Tom Joyner “Take Your Loved One to the Doctor” pledge at www.BlackAmericaweb.com/drday. Your participation proves that it is important to not only take care of ourselves, but also those who we love and care about.