Make the Most of Your Upcoming Appointment with these Tips that can be used with any Health Practitioner!
By: Taylor Devlin, Stroke Navigator
It is easy to feel rushed in appointments with your health care providers. Often, healthcare providers have to schedule clients every 15 minutes to make sure everyone can be seen. This can leave you feeling unsure of the information you have been provided, or have you wishing you asked more questions. This is especially true for those who have experienced a stroke and are living with cognitive or communication challenges.
Whether you are attending a follow up appointment or seeing a new specialist, it is important to be prepared and advocate for your own health to get the most out of your appointment! Remember – you play the most important role in your healthcare!
Below are 10 Tips to help you get the Most out of your Appointments:
1. Write a List of Questions and Prioritize Them
Write down questions when you think of them for your health care provider to answer. Put them in a notebook you reserve for health/stroke related questions in a common space in your home. Bring a notebook and a pen with you to your next appointment – you can ask your questions straight from your notebook and take notes on recommendations.
This helps you to avoid leaving and realizing you didn’t ask an important question you had! Easy to forget what you wanted to ask.
Before your appointment, take a minute to prioritize your questions. Ask the most urgent questions first! Don’t delay them until the end, as often a healthcare session may only touch on 2 medical issues in one appointment.
2. Plan to be on Time
Keep a journal or calendar of all your appointments, meetings and tests
Arriving early will also help you get as much time with your provider as possible.
Know your route, location, parking directions and potential parking costs in advance. Give yourself extra time if you have mobility challenges.
3. Try to Relax
It’s natural to be nervous or anxious when visiting a healthcare provider, but remember that they are here to try to help you. Try to relax as much as possible
When you arrive or sign in, take a few deep breaths and remember that your provider is on your get-well and stay-well team. Also, remember that arriving early for your appointment will usually allow you to sit quietly for a few moments to center yourself.
4. Share new Symptoms and Changes in your Health
Those who have already experienced a stroke are at higher risk of a secondary stroke or onset of additional other health conditions. It is important to share symptoms and changes in your health with your healthcare provider.
If you have been treated in the emergency room or by a specialist, tell the doctor right away. Mention any changes you have noticed in your appetite, weight, sleep, or energy level.
This will also help the HCP if they need to determine what is going on. The more information your provider has, the easier it will be to diagnose what may be going on. Give examples: unable to sleep, shoulder soreness, blurred vision, etc.
1 in 4 stroke survivors will have another stroke within 5 years. Avoid this by telling your doctor what is going on!
5. Ask Questions
Don't hesitate to ask questions and voice concerns during the appointment. Often clients and patients want to seem cooperative during appointments or don’t want to ask a “dumb question” so avoid speaking up. This is not helpful for anyone, because you end up unsure of what you are supposed to do and as a result, the next time you come in for an appointment you may not see improvement.
It's okay to say to your doctor, “Wait, I want to make sure I understand what you're saying. This is important and I want to get this right.'" Make sure you write down the answers.
Questions you Could Ask about Your Stroke:
Questions About Diagnosis
What caused my stroke?
What type of stroke did I have?
What part of my brain is affected? What damage has the stroke done?
What are the results of my tests? What do they mean?
Will my symptoms get worse?
Will I ever regain the physical function I lost?
Will I ever regain the brain function I lost?
Questions About Treatment
Are there medications to help with my post-stroke symptoms? Are there side effects?
Are there medications to help prevent another stroke? Are there side effects?
Will physical therapy help me improve physical function?
Is there therapy that will help me improve brain function?
Are there alternative or complementary therapies that may help manage my symptoms?
What is the next step in my care? Will I be admitted to hospital or discharged home?
Will I be given an appointment at a stroke clinic or with a stroke specialist when I leave the hospital?
Questions About My Lifestyle and Family
What will I be able to do in the next few months?
What can I expect one year from now?
What skills will I need to take care of myself?
Do I need to make any changes to my diet or daily routines?
Will exercise help me recover from my stroke?
Are there certain jobs or activities I can’t do because I’ve had a stroke?
Is it safe to have sex after a stroke?
What services and resources can help me and my family? How do I access them?
6. Consider Bringing a Family Member or Friend to the Doctor's Office
Sometimes it is helpful to bring a family member or close friend with you to your appointment. Tell your family member or friend in advance what your expectations are for your appointment. They may be able to help advocate for you and remind you of your list. They can take notes for you.
Your partner can help you remember what the doctor said during the appointment, they can help ask questions you may not think of, and of course, the extra moral support comes in handy too.
7. Bring Medications, Vitamins, Herbal Remedies or Medication List
Everyone should have a current list of medications to show the doctor, but many don't. An upcoming appointment is a good reason to put your list together. It helps you get organized and helps the healthcare provider understand what you are taking if you have numerous specialists.
Include the names of the medications, the doses, and the schedule of when you take those medications. Include vitamins, supplements (such as calcium), and over-the-counter medicines (such as heartburn remedies).
You can also simply put all of your pill bottles and medications in a reusable plastic bag if your medications are being updated a lot currently.
Bring your insurance cards, names and phone numbers of other doctors you see, and your medical records if the doctor doesn’t already have them.
8. Document your Family History
Be prepared to answer many questions about family history. If there are things that are very specific or you think you may forget, make sure to write them down.
Your family history is a very important tool for predicting your risk factor for many diseases and conditions.
9. Ask to Remove Distractions
Sometimes healthcare settings can be noisy and busy. This is especially true if you have experienced a stroke. If you are hard of site, use glasses, lip read or need aids for hearing this can create problems when you are trying to understand what your provider is telling you.
Remember to take your eyeglasses to the doctor’s visit. If you have a hearing aid, make sure that it is working well and wear it.
Let the staff know if you have a hard time seeing or hearing. For example: “My hearing makes it hard to understand everything you’re saying. It helps a lot when you speak slowly and face me when you're talking.”
Ask them to provide consultation in a quiet spot with little distraction (TV, magazines, etc.)
10. Request an Interpreter if You Need One
If the doctor you selected or were referred to doesn’t speak your language, call the doctor’s office ahead of time and ask to be provided an interpreter. Even though some English-speaking doctors know basic medical terms in Spanish or other languages, you may feel more comfortable speaking in your own language, especially when it comes to sensitive subjects, such as sexuality or depression.
Always let the doctor, your interpreter, or the staff know if you do not understand your diagnosis or the instructions the doctor gives you. Don’t let language barriers stop you from asking questions or voicing your concerns.
11. Ask for a Summary at the End of your Appointment
Before leaving your appointment, ask for a summary of what you talked about.
Have the doctor to repeat the instructions you're supposed to follow and make sure you're both on the same page.
Finally, be sure you know how to contact your doctor's office if you have further questions.
For specific tips on virtual healthcare sessions visit: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/1-stroke-best-practices/resources/patient-resources/csbp-infographic-virtual-healthcare-checklist.ashx?rev=52fc18b0280c4b3d88c27b7ca497d3d2