This page is designed to provide specific information regarding doctor's appointments for kids, teens, and senior adults. No matter which category you fit in, remember that some general principles always apply: be prepared, gather your support system if needed (friends, family), and remember that the doctor is human. In fact, a recent study has shown that doctors communicate worse when under stress (1), so it is a good idea to try to reduce your doctor's stress level by being a diligent patient.
Children (and Parents)
Trust the doctor - expect them to do their best, but recognize that this isn't always what you want them to do. For example, you might want a prescription for your child's common cold, but the doctor may prefer to wait and see how the illness progresses. It's okay to expect your child's doctor to do what he or she thinks is best, but be ready to support their decision even if you disagree.
Communicate - be ready to ask questions, but also to answer them. Have your questions prepared, as well as the answers to some expected questions. If your child is visiting the doctor because he or she is not feeling well, be ready to cite specific details about the symptoms (fever, vomiting, etc). Be sure to tell the doctor about any concerning symptoms, even if they are not asked about specifically.
Build a relationship - Be informed, but don't overwhelm the doctor with questions about various information on the internet or TV. Be focused, turn off your cell phone and pay attention to what the doctor says. Be courteous and conscious of the doctor's busy schedule. Use sound judgment; if a phone call can substitute for a doctor's visit, it will save both time and money (3).
How to Talk to Your Child's Doctor, Cómo conversar con el médico de su hijo
Keeping track of your child's medical history can be helpful when talking to doctors (7). Some good things to include in this record are:
- Allergies (environental and medication)
- Medications (previous and current, prescribed and over-the-counter)
- Illnesses and Conditions (H1N1 swine flu, attention deficit disorder, etc)
- Hospitalizations and Operations
- Height and Weight (current and previous)
Know Your Child's Medical History, Conozca la historia médica de su hijo
Teenagers face unique health issues regarding puberty and growing up. Sometimes it may seem uncomfortable to talk about these issues, but it doesn't have to be this way when talking to your doctor. Here are some helpful questions you can ask your doctor to help establish a trusting relationship and allow you to understand more about your own body (4):
-Set up open communication
Is my information confidential? Can I speak with you one-on-one, without my parents present?
-When you feel sick
Am I sick? What is the problem? How serious is it? How long will it last? What can I do about it?
What is my medication? How often do I need to take it? How long should it take until I notice a difference in my health?
-Tests and treatments
Where do I need to go for the test (or treatment)? What kind of test is it? What will the test tell us about my health?
Questions to Ask Your Doctor, Preguntas que puedes hacerle a tu doctor
Many teens worry about their body's shape and size. It is normal and natural to have these types of questions. It is important to remember that every body is unique and that every individual grows and develops in his or her own way. Some body types are naturally taller, shorter, thicker, thinner, etc. For example, a person's weight can be deceptive; two people with the same height and weight can have different levels of muscle, fat, and bone density. It's important to take care of your body right now, but also remember that it might look very different in a few years.
It is also important to remember that your family's genes may play an important role in your height and weight. However, just because your mom and dad might be short and overweight (or tall and thin) doesn't mean you will be exactly the same. You share more than just genetics with your family; you probably also share eating and exercise habits. All said, remember that the way you live is just as important as your genes (5).
What's the Right Weight for My Height?
Talking to Your Doctor, Hablar con tu médico
Although many of the issues faced by older adults are similar to those faced by younger adults, there are a number of issues specifically related to getting older. This section focuses on issues particular to aging (11).
You may sometimes wonder what would happen if you became very ill. Although this may be a difficult topic to talk about, your doctor will be able to discuss this topic, most likely suggesting you to make advance directives. An advance directive is any official document that you make that says what you would like to happen if you became very ill and unable to make a decision for yourself. Healthcare proxies and living wills are examples of advance directives.
Driving can become more difficult, particularly with challenges in mobility and vision. This is a normal challenge, and it is wise to talk to your doctor about whether you should continue driving and what you can do to improve your driving skills. Your doctor may refer you to driving classes that can help you adjust to the specific challenges of aging.
Many senior adults decide to move to assisted living communities for a variety of reasons, including the community feeling and the easier lifestyle. If you are considering moving to an assisted living or retirement community, your doctor may be helpful in referring you to social workers who can help you decide what is best for you.
-Paying for Medications
Medical bills can become expensive, particularly with costly prescriptions. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor about cheaper alternatives to prescriptions. He or she may also be able to help you find medical cost coverage.
Practical Matters, Conversando con su médico
1.Brown R,Dunn S, Byrnes K, Morris R, Heinrich P, Shaw J (2009). Doctors' stress responses and poor communication performance in simulated bad-news consultation. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges,84(11):1595-602.
3.Dowshen, Stephen, MD (Reviewed May 2009). How to Talk to Your Child's Doctor. Retrieved from: http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sick/talk_doctor.html#
7.Hirsch, Larissa, MD (Reviewed November 2007). Knowing Your Child's Medical History. Retrieved from: http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/emergencies/medhist.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle#
4.Gavin, Mary L., MD (Reviewed October 2007). Questions to Ask Your Doctor. Retrieved from: (http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/medical_care/questions_doctor.html
5.Gavin, Mary L, MD (Reviewed June 2008). What's the Right Weight for My Height? Retrieved from: http://teenshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/dieting/weight_height.html#
11.To Change the Subject: Practical Matters (May 19, 2008). U.S. National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/TalkingWithYourDoctor/chapter07.htm
Senior Adults: http://www.fotosearch.com/bthumb/UNC/UNC228/u12802630.jpg