Do you know how to make the most of your Doctors appointment?
This happens to be something which as Chronic Illness Warriors we talk about a lot because we have to prioritise which of our ailments need dealing with the most each time we visit our GP’s. We have so many things requiring attention at times that even if we saw our docs every day for 5 days we probably still wouldn’t have reached the bottom of our lists! 🙂
If you are someone who is not a chronic illness warrior reading this you may think that this is an exaggeration,… why not!?… I will have done at some point in my life before being affected by multiple chronic illnesses myself.
The other big problem we face is remembering all the things that we select, from those lists, to speak to the doctor about. Call it brain fog, chronic fatigue, memory impairment due to medications, or even just simply distracted by other conversation about other illness that it takes over the appointment. We then find ourselves chuntering on the way home as we begin to remember things we didn’t get around to discussing, or around to asking for such as a much-needed prescription for instance.
“Dang! I forgot to ask for Voltarol, again!!”
When you’re newly diagnosed this can be seriously overwhelming because you want answers to so many questions as well as treatments / therapies, and possibly even medications, referrals to specialists, and most of all someone to tell us it’s going to be ok.
Not knowing the system of only being able to discuss 2 or 3 things in one appointment can be problematic to the newly diagnosed as I have experienced for myself years ago, and also watched some of my group members experience too. It is stressful going to the doctor, we can even begin to think that our doctors aren’t helping us because things aren’t happening quick enough.
Through changing our medications alone it can send our daily routines, that have taken years to develop, sideways. If they stop a medication that’s even worse! even if it so they can work out what medication you should be taking, or to wean you off to try something else! This can be a really frustrating and very stressful time / transition for our family and friends too because they also do not understand what is going on… never mind ourselves! It is at this point, (if you haven’t already begun to), where it is useful to start taking someone into appointments with you who will remember what advice the doctor gives, or, can help you work through your list with the doctor to ensure you get the most from your appointment.
I must say that it is important to tell your doctor of any significant changes especially if it is regarding medications, or you suspect it is because of your medication change. For instance, withdrawal can cause some nasty side-effects!
New pains or twinges, changes to skin, has your eye-sight altered, are you bruising easily, lost/gained weight quickly, experiencing gastro/bowel problems, having dizzy episodes, memory issues…? Keep a diary and write these changes down
Not knowing the correct jargon can make explaining things complicated and often we don’t get our problems across efficiently, for example there are many different types of pain and many descriptors. When first entering the hunt for a diagnosis, and also when first officially diagnosed, I didn’t know about all of them so saying that I was in pain didn’t give the doctor much to go on! Doctors need to know where the pain is originating and what kind of pain it is, and if you don’t know the language it is difficult. Again, this is where having someone with you can be very useful, especially if it is someone who knows you, and how you are with your health / chronic illness(es). My husband comes with me but sometimes I go with a friend, they stay in waiting room usually but knowing they’re there is reassuring. Of course for major consults I prefer them to come into the appointment with me.
(Please see the link to ‘IASP Taxonomy of pain’ in Further reading below)
Regarding monitoring my own pain levels I now use the form below to help me log my pain after studying up on pain and finding out about my conditions as much as I could. It has taken me 4 years to get to this point so please note that these things take time to develop, they don’t happen over-night!
All I do is write the day of the week it is that I experience the pain in the appropriate pain type box in correlation to which area of me that I felt it.
Form was designed by me – Carole Sian Scrafton / fibrofly73 – for my Hydrotherapy Diary (Hydro Heaven or Hell, HHorH, series that is currently on a musical interlude)
There are a number of Apps now that have been developed to help patients keep a log of their illnesses, whether it be Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis and even Mental Health. Plus, there are many under development too so it is worth keeping your eyes on social media for new apps which may help you keep a diary of your chronic illness(es). It is possible to use the information you log to help you at your appointments.
With all of the above in mind it will be easy to see how we need to plan our appointments so that we can get what we need from them. Yes, it means writing lists, keeping a journal, getting family and friends to assist you with appointments, doing things you don’t want to and listening to advice you possibly don’t want to hear.
This is where developing a support network for yourself is important as it will be there for you at times when needed such as getting what you need from your appointments, not just there to listen, or do your shopping, housework and cleaning etc. You can build coping strategies for when you endure a setback that includes your support network too!
My support network included a guidance counsellor from Mind, my doctor and his surgery, Pain Management Graduate Scheme, my bestest friends, my carer-husband and my mum and her husband, even my wheelchair dealer & Motability for all of my wheelchair issues, plus my group FibroFlutters. Support groups are a good way to meet people like yourself for support and advice.
What is the reason for your appointment? Remember to make your appointment plan/lists/questions about that because you will need to answer some important questions so that you and your doctor can work together to find the right solutions/treatment options/ for you.
I was inspired to write this post after reading this article from WebMD which is discussing how to make the most of your doctors appointment.
“Many people are more satisfied with their health care if they share the responsibility with their doctors. Your doctor is an expert on medical care, but you are the expert on yourself.”
The above article – ‘Making the most of your appointment’, gives some very useful and clear advice for making sure you get the most out of your appointments.
I hope there is inspiration for you all in the article, and from this post, to help give you some reassurance and confidence to start planning your health-care appointments, and also logging your experiences down in in a diary/journal.
“I like the pdf’s giving forms for the different reasons for going to see the doctor that can be found on page two of the article”
Many thanks for reading, I hope the article gives you plenty of ideas as to how to get what you need from your doctors / consultant appointments. I know it is geared towards women but I do find it useful for you guys too!
As always, wishing you all wellness and less pain 🙂
Please remember that I am not a medical professional I am just a fellow chronic illness warrior sharing info and expierences with you. Also, if you are experiencing new symptoms please seek advice from your GP and not self-diagnose from any online sources. Thankyou.
Anyone wishing to have a copies of any of my templates can e-mail me ‘Carole Sian’ at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ for the file to download 🙂
Further reading / Other links
Home Page – Web MD
Home Page – IASP
FibroFlutters on Social Media
- https://twitter.com/scrufton73 >>> Carole’s account set up March 2014 for fibro campaigning on behalf of Charity FibroAction. Receives posts from fibroflutters.com, Fluffmeister’s FUNdraising Awareness Page
- email@example.com set up April 2014 in preparation for group launch in May
- https://plus.google.com/u/0/+FibroFlutters >>> Set up April 2014 via FibroFlutters e-mail address in preparation for group launch; accessibility from varying sources
- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKMmBxub1AxNTtodSzGMoXA/playlists YOU TUBE set up same time as Google+ in April 2014 channel is empty as not uploaded any videos, however there is an archive of playlists. Have only recently began to utilise it properly.
- https://twitter.com/FibroFlutters>>> FibroFlutters Support Group for Fibro & MentalHealth account set up April 2014 for Group Launch on May 12th International Awareness Day for Fibromyalgia, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
- https://www.facebook.com/groups/www.fibroaction.org/ >>> Closed Facebook group set up in Spring 2015 by a friend in who became my co-founder because she was promoting the group on Facebook for me. Is linked to FibroFlutters HQ Facebook main Page Fluffmeister’s FUNdraising Awareness Facebook Page, and recently formed FibroFlutters – Mental Health Discussion Closed group on Facebook
- https://fibroflutters.com/ >>> set up May2015 to mark May 12th International Awareness Day for Fibromyalgia, ME and CFS for my support group members to blog and share information as I wasn’t on Facebook for Mental health/social anxiety reasons. Also, posts out to @FibroFlutters and @Scrufton73 on Twitter; FibroFlutters HQ on Facebook, FibroFlutters on Linked In; FibroFlutters and Carole Scrafton on Google+; plus, there is the Pinterest option for readers as well as in house wordpressing or reblogging. Also, accessibility to YOU TUBE sharing. Website is easily accessible from our pages, groups, sites etc
- https://www.facebook.com/FibroFlutters/ >>> set up in Spring- Summer2015 to make post sharing from blog site better/easier for campaigning, blogging, sharing, advocating and archiving useful articles, research, posts etc. Also, posts out to @FibroFlutters on Twitter and is also linked to FibroFlutters Sunderland closed Group on Facebook; FibroFlutters Mental Health Discussion Closed Group on Facebook; Fluffmeister’s FUNdraising Awareness Page on Facebook
- https://www.linkedin.com/in/fibroflutters-655756108/ >>> Set up October 2015 for Pain Awareness Month but only been using it for last 12 months due to lack of time and chronic illness limitations, but also lack of priority as supporting fellow patients and Advocating for FibroAction and then FMAUK after the merger in 2015 was far more important. Twitter was a better networking platform and less invasive on a personal level. Accessibility via Twitter sharing facility plus FibroFlutters HQ on Facebook, fibroflutters.com, FibroFlutters Sunderland Closed group on Facebook.