How To Wrangle Doctor Appointments For Seniors

Struggling to get doctor’s appointments and all your questions answered? There's good news! Discover the 4 big tips for wrangling doctor visits while managing and maximizing your time.
Angry older woman screams into phone with her white hair turning into smoke

When it comes to wrangling doctor’s appointments, it’s helpful to have a plan of action.

Dr. Danielle Ofri, author and associate professor of medicine at New York University, spells out how to manage your appointment and get the most value out of a medical visit.

Orfi advises focusing on 4 areas: Finding the doctor, Preparing for your appointment, During the appointment, and After the appointment.

1. Finding The Doctor


Remember the old real-estate motto? “Location. Location. Location.” A similar principle applies when selecting your doctor or clinic.

If the location is local, convenient to your home, and with plenty of parking — you’ll have an easier time. If the location is far away, requiring complicated navigation, and without parking — the opposite is true.

As odd as it may seem, a convenient location can help you stay in closer contact with your primary care physician.

Get Recommendations

Ask friends, families and neighbors who are familiar with the doctors in your area, or specific medical facilities. A personal referral can provide comfort, peace-of-mind, and sense of security.

Check out Clinics

In addition to private practices and hospitals, be sure to check out clinics in your area. You may find excellent options that are local, affordable, and offer treatment options without insurance. Some clinics are free, on a donation basis, or offer sliding scale payment options.

Selecting Your Doctor

Ultimately, your individual doctor is the person you’re relying on for caring advice and professional treatment. You may prefer a small or large practice. You may have preferences for a male or female physician.

Senior man and woman in doctor's waiting room

2. Preparing for Your Appointment

Set Goals for Your Appointment

While you may have a long list of issues, experts recommend focusing on 2-3 top concerns. You’ll be better prepared to have a quality appointment, focused and clear dialogue, and a plan of action.

Write Down Your Goals

Seeing a physician can seem like a stressful event. It’s common to forget, get distracted, or veer from primary goals—without written notes.

Write down your primary concerns. Focus your attention on key goals for this upcoming appointment. Is it a new symptom? Is this a maintenance visit? Is this a big check up?

Bring Documents

If you’re just starting out with a doctor or clinic, be sure to bring relevant documents. This includes making a checklist of critical information such as: insurance information, medications records, health records and test results.

3. Getting The Most Out Of Your Appointment

Practice The Buddy System

A doctor’s appointment can be stressful. Having a friend or companion with you is a smart move. When you go to your appointment with a buddy, have that person take notes and record the conversation. You can focus all your attention on asking questions, listening, and confirming that you understand the answers.

Speak Up for Yourself

Communication is key to getting the most out of your appointment. It’s not just up to the doctor to keep things focused. As a patient, you’re also advocating for yourself. Speak up early in the appointment about your key concerns. When doctors speak quickly, use medical jargon, or rush through an appointment, it’s easy to feel intimidated.

Ask questions and make sure you get answers. You deserve to understand what is going on with your body, health, and treatment plan. Health experts advise us to keep this in mind: No question is silly or foolish.

Keep Track of Time

Make sure your top concerns are getting addressed. Do your best to track the time, so you don’t wait until the last minute to share the biggest thing on your mind. If you prefer, have your companion keep track of time, and give reminders to manage the flow of dialogue.

Have An Action Plan

Do not leave until you completely understand your action plan. Have a treatment plan that is clear to you.

Senior woman in wheelchair with latina caregiver

4. Reflecting On Your Appointment

Review Your Experience

It may seem like the appointment ends at the appointment, but really it continues.

Take time to review your notes. Even on the way home, go over your initial written notes and what you learned during the appointment.

Did You Cover Your Top Concerns?

Do you feel your concerns were heard, understood, and addressed? Do you feel the doctor was rushed, preoccupied, or unwilling to listen? Did you forget to ask something important?

Do You Know What To Do Next?

Do you have a clear plan of action? For instance, do you know which medications to take, and when? Do you know which tests to have? Do you know which specialists to see?

If you have more questions, find a way to get in touch. Make a phone call. Send a text. Make another appointment.

Consider Getting Extra Help

Getting extra help may provide a new level of comfort in doctor’s appointments. This help may come from a friend, family member, or local acquaintance. Many seniors find that having a close friend on hand is reassuring, and productive. It helps create a sense of calm, and more effective doctor appointments.

Additionally, many organizations offer senior care advocates. These organizations may be staffed by volunteers or paid staff. They provide care advocates to accompany seniors to the physician. Many of these services follow up each visit with a detailed report of conversations, directives, and action plans that took place.

Organizations such as Patient Advocate Foundation and the Advoconnection Directory can help you find people working as patient advocates in your area.

Assistance Club Summary

The #1 Big Idea: Advocate for your health.

Because you want to get the most out of your doctor’s appointments, be an advocate for getting the best care possible. If you need help, work with a patient advocate to get the attention and healthcare you deserve.

Use these strategies to get focused before, during, and after visits. With a little effort, you’ll discover it’s a lot easier to communicate your needs, support your health objectives—and feel confident during doctor’s appointments.