Solutions for improving communications with health professionals include:
Before medical appointments, ask what questions and concerns the older adult wants to discuss, including:
If you have questions, add them to the list. Ask the older adult which three questions are most important. Circle them and make sure the older adult or you ask them early in the appointment, so you have time to discuss them. Bring the list to the appointment.
If the older adult wants to focus on one topic, tell the health professional's office before the appointment. If the older adult and you have many questions, ask if you can schedule a longer appointment.
Appointment time is limited. If you don't have time to discuss important questions, ask if you can schedule a phone call or follow-up appointment.
Don't expect any one health professional to have all the answers. Ask if they can recommend specialists, programs or other resources to address the older adult's concern.
Always tell health professionals if something is not clear to the older adult or you. It can help to:
Ask health professionals:
If the health professional doesn't speak the older adult's language, ask the office for a medical interpreter before the appointment.
Encourage the older adult to tell health professionals what they appreciate. For example, the older adult or you might want to ask health professionals to:
Respectfully share any concerns with the health professional. Tell professionals if the older adult or you feel rushed, worried or uncomfortable.
When you give health professionals feedback, try to be specific and positive. Health professionals work in settings and follow rules that are often out of control.
If the older adult is looking for a new health professional, ask the older adult what is important:
Ask friends, relatives and other professionals which health professionals they suggest and why. Start a list of potential health professionals for the older adult. Look them up online. Contact local or state medical societies to check if complaints have been filed against them.
Ask the older adult to narrow down the list. Ask what would make the older adult choose one health provider over others. For example, does the older adult want a health professional who:
Call each health professional's office. Ask if they're accepting new patients. If they are, ask the office about what's most important to the older adult. Add the information to your list of health professionals.
Based on this information, the older adult can decide who to make an appointment with. After the appointment, ask the older adult if the health professional listened to them, explained things clearly and gave the older adult time to ask questions.