Ways to improve the older adult's medical appointments

Solutions that support the older adult during medical appointments include:

  • Discussing your role with the older adult

  • Setting priorities

  • Gathering and bringing information

  • Discussing what happened

Discussing your role with the older adult

Before an appointment, ask what the older adult wants you to do during the visit. Is there anything that the older adult doesn't want you to do?

Ask if you can go with the older adult into the exam room, ask if the older adult wants some time alone with the health professional.

Your role during the older adult's appointment could be to:

  • Drive the older adult there

  • Help the older adult check in or walk to the exam room

  • Take notes about what the health professional says

  • Make sure the older adult is able to ask questions

  • Ask the health professional to explain anything that's not clear

  • Go through instructions, step by step

  • Ask if there are symptoms or other signs of trouble that the older adult and you should look for

  • Share what you've noticed about the older adult's health

  • Ask how you can help the older adult stay healthy

  • Ask if the older adult should see a specialist or schedule a follow-up appointment

  • Ask for brochures or other information that the older adult can take home

  • Ask if the office can provide a written summary of the visit

  • Ask about local programs or resources that could help the older adult

  • Give feedback to the health professional, like "We wanted to talk about this" or "This discussion feels rushed. Can we talk more about this at another time?"

If you're in the room with the older adult, encourage the health professional to talk mostly with the older adult. If the health professional starts talking to you more, you might say:

  • "The older adult has a few questions for you."

  • "I'm not sure. What do you think?"

  • "I'm just here to help the older adult."

Setting priorities

Before an appointment, ask what questions and concerns the older adult wants to discuss, including:

  • Symptoms, such as pain, dizziness or vision changes

  • Changes with appetite, mood, sleep, memory or physical activity

  • Problems taking medications or meeting daily needs

  • Questions about treatment options

  • Ways to improve health and prevent problems

Make a list to take to the medical appointment. If you have questions, add them to the list.

Ask the older adult which three questions or concerns are most important to discuss.

Circle them and make sure the older adult or you bring them up early in the appointment.

To help prioritize topics, ask the older adult:

  • Is the appointment a regular check-up, follow-up appointment or a visit to address specific problems?

  • Does this health professional focus on certain health issues or treatments?

  • Has your health or living situation changed since the last time you saw this health professional?

  • Do you need to decide about any health tests or treatments?

When you make the appointment or at the start of the appointment, tell the health professional what the older adult and you most want to discuss. If the older adult and you have many questions, ask if you can schedule a longer appointment.

Don't expect any one health professional to have all the answers. Ask if the professional can recommend specialists, programs or community agencies that can help address the older adult's concerns.

Gathering and bringing information

Before an appointment, collect the following:

  • List of important questions and topics that the older adult and you discussed

  • List or bring all the older adult's medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and supplements

  • Insurance plan information

  • Names and contact information for other health professionals who the older adult has seen recently

  • Legal documents related to healthcare decisions, like advance directives

Put the information together, in a folder or on an electronic device. Make sure the older adult or you takes the information to the medical appointment.

Bring a pocket or online calendar, to help the older adult schedule tests or follow-up appointments right in the health professional's office.

Discussing what happened

Afterwards, ask how the older adult feels the medical appointment went. Ask if there's anything the older adult would like to change or would like you to do differently next time.

Look at the list of important questions and topics that the older adult and you made beforehand. How many did you have time to discuss? If there are important ones you didn't have time for, follow up with the health professional by phone or online.

Ask if the older adult wants to give the health professional any feedback. Clearly but politely say what went well and what didn't. Tell health professionals if the older adult or you felt rushed or confused or had any other problems during the appointment.