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Seeing the doctor

by Michael Goodman and Peter Boyce

The older you get, the more likely it is that you will have to consult a doctor.

But how often do you leave the clinic or the doctor’s office feeling that you’ve not made the most of the short time you had for your consultation; that you forgot to ask an important question; that you didn’t understand what the doctor was talking about; that you can’t remember the name of the condition or illness he diagnosed, or the medication he prescribed?

Sadly, most people would admit to one or more of the above following a visit to a doctor or health care specialist.

Good communication with your doctor is essential, but sadly there are many factors that can get in the way of that happening. Perhaps you’re anxious about what might be wrong with you. Maybe you worry that you’re bothering your doctor and that he or she has more important patients to see.

Many people bestow doctors with a reverence that forbids them to question the doctor’s opinion, while others don’t understand what’s being said and feel foolish asking for an explanation.

The good news is that there are a few simple guidelines which will help both you and your doctor get the most out of your consultation.

Make a simple written list of everything you want to talk to your doctor about, starting with the three most important things. List your symptoms, including how and when you experience them, how often, and what makes them worse, or better. List all the medications you are taking including over the counter ones.

Tell your doctor the whole truth, even if you find it embarrassing. To help you best, your doctor needs to know exactly what is going on. Sensitive health issues, like haemorrhoids, discharge from sexual organs, impotence, incontinence or memory loss, concern many older people. Your doctor is used to talking about highly personal matters and withholding facts can affect the quality of your care and can even lead to a wrong diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, write down the name of the illness or condition. Ask what may have caused it; how long it might last; whether it can be cured and how it can be treated or managed.

If you don’t understand, say so. You should never feel shy about asking for clarification. You might even repeat what your doctor has told you to check that you have got it right.

Write down the name and spelling of any drugs your doctor prescribes and understand why you have to take them; what side effects you might experience; how often and when to take them, like before or after meals. And if you can’t afford your medication, let your doctor know. There is no point in getting a prescription you can’t afford to fill.

If you are unsure about anything while making your notes, ask your doctor to clarify, or if necessary, write it down for you.

Perhaps you might consider taking a family member or close friend with you. They can help you remember what your doctor says and you can still have time alone with your doctor to talk about personal matters if you need to.

Preparing for your doctor’s visit in advance will help both you and your doctor, effectively making you partners in reaching your optimum health and well-being.

Join Michael Goodman & Peter Boyce on Bajan Living every Monday, 2-3pm, on 100.7 QFM Barbados or online at

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