Going to see a physician is now a new thing. Many of us have seen a physician, or two, or more, in our lifetime. And, if you are a parent, you will have taken your children for a variety of “well” and “sick” visits. I personally used to dislike taking my children, for a simple reason. Pediatricians notoriously filled every minute of the day with sick, feverish, coughing and sneezing children alongside those who were there for a “well” visit. I used to wonder why they did not just separate those appointments. Apparently, as just a working-from-home parent whose billable hours were spent waiting a long time to see the physician and/or tending a now-sick child (from other children waiting for “sick” visits” at the same time), my children’s health and my time were inconsequential.
I did once tell a receptionist that I was shocked that she had the audacity to ask me for a co-pay after making us wait for two hours in that germ-infested waiting area with, not one, but two, small children who had not been sick prior to our visit and that I had missed several hours of work and thought they should be paying me! Needless to say, I was still billed for the co-pay and nothing changed. We did learn techniques to avoid being too close to the other children waiting – we took our own books and other small toys so my children did not need to share the office toys with others. We also found a space as far away as we could while waiting and I kept my little ones close to me.
Well, we survived and now thankfully my children are grown and healthy. But now, here we are again with my senior parents. As a reasonably healthy person who tries to stay so, I have not spent much adult time in doctors’ offices. As a result, I had no idea that seniors require so many medical appointments, and that is just the regular visits! That does not include weeks and weeks of multiple therapies and all the specialists.
It truly seems that these visits are not just appointments; they are excursions. My car practically has auto-drive to each of the offices we regularly visit! And for the first visit with a new physician, there are reams of forms to complete upon arrival, so it is necessary to arrive a half hour, plus, early to complete them all. Why could they not, as a rule, email those forms ahead of time or direct us to their website page for new patients when a first appointment is made? Fortunately, my dad has thought ahead and has for both him and my mom a list of all of their medications, allergies, various conditions, prior surgeries, all attending physicians and their contact info, and their insurance information. Without this, we would never see the doctor on the appointed day. We would instead be swimming in ink. The last time we went to a new physician, it took us half an hour to complete the forms, and that was with me filling in what I could and dad filling in the rest. Sheesh!
I am thankful that I have always been reasonably healthy and fortunately would not have a list of complaints, conditions and/or medications to report. That makes me an oddity when I see a doctor. They literally stare at me when I respond to the inevitable question about regular medications that I do not take any. I do try to take my vitamins, though I admit I am not very good at that. My husband is religious about it and constantly reminds me to replace empty containers!
It makes total sense to me now why my parents almost always stopped for lunch on appointment days. Without that sustenance, they would likely have dropped from exhaustion and starvation!
So my thoughts with regard to medical appointments for your seniors when you need to provide assistance or attend along with them –
While parenting our parents was not something we readily thought about until it was necessary, be observant and do not be bashful when accompanying them to appointments. If their hearing and/or understanding is an issue, you will need to be their eyes and ears. Be prepared to take notes and ask questions. I have learned that many seniors will not question a physician or even think to give full details, so make sure you can supplement any information they provide. Do not be afraid to ask pointed questions if you need more information or disagree with something. While you are not there to challenge, you are there to provide the best assistance you can for the health and well-being of your senior.