This time of year tends to bring on more illnesses. So it's especially important to pay attention if you have an elderly parent or other relative or friend who may need help facing the flu or other illnesses.
Influenza, for example, is a much more serious health issue than many of us realize. It's estimated that 80,000 Americans died of influenza last flu season, over 700,000 were hospitalized, and that the vast majority were elderly.
Of course, as we get older, it's not just the flu but a variety of health issues that can prompt a doctor visit, a visit that can often be stressful, anxiety-producing and confusing for someone older. You may even be aware that you, regardless of your age, face the same problems when visiting your doctor.
A doctor visit should be helpful and productive, and there are things you can do, for yourself or an elderly relative, to help minimize stress and maximize the help the doctor has to offer.
One starting point is being what a professional counselor would call "appropriately assertive." Rather than being intimidated by that white coat and stethoscope, you want to be able to speak up clearly and directly about the reasons for your visit. Establish a climate of mutual respect that acknowledges the doctor's busy schedule but also your need to get information.
It usually helps, prior to that office visit, to write out any questions that you'd like answered. That's especially true if you're going with someone older who may be nervous or forgetful about bringing up all the issues that need addressing.
Write down the doctor's answers and instructions, and don't be afraid to politely ask to have things restated if you haven't fully understood what was said.
Your goal is to get all the information you need and that's especially important if the patient is someone elderly who may forget or be confused about what doctor's diagnosis and advice. To make sure you've understood it yourself, take a moment to repeat what was said, and give the doctor the chance to correct or add to what you've heard.
Open communication between doctor and patient makes it easier for both to work as partners. Whether the visit is for yourself, or to help a senior close to you, building effective communication will result in less stress and confusion, and better care for the patient.