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How to Make Medical Appointments Work for You

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If you live with a chronic illness, you’re probably used to attending more doctor appointments than a person could ever wish for. Navigating these visits can sometimes be stressful, overwhelming or exhausting. You’ve got a lot to juggle, so here are a few tips to help consultations with your doctor feel smoother, more effective and maybe even a little enjoyable.

Audio-Record Your Appointment

It can be challenging to remember all the details of your doctor’s explanations and recommendations during your time together. If you find yourself taking more notes than a straight-A high school student, I have good news: you can audio-record your medical appointments. Not only will the recording be a helpful reference for you later, but you can also share and discuss it with a partner, relative or friend.

After you’ve asked your doctor for permission to record, use your phone’s Voice Memo app and place it (or another device) on the desk or consultation table. Then you can sit back, relax and be more present for the conversation. You’ll get a lot more out of the appointment if you can be 100 percent focused on engaging with your doctor versus trying to memorize it all.

Note: you may find that placing your phone in airplane mode will be helpful in preventing incoming calls from inadvertently pausing the recording.

Bring a Buddy

When you have a chronic illness, it’s not uncommon to become isolated in managing your day-to-day responsibilities. Medical appointments in particular can be boring, scary or even lonely at times. But you don’t have to do this alone! Consider inviting a friend or loved one to join you for even the most routine visits.

Your “plus one” can pick you up or meet you at the office. They can sit with you in the waiting room and listen to your concerns, read magazines or make ridiculous jokes. They can come into the appointment or wait for you outside the room. They can help ask your doctor questions or quietly support you just being by your side. Let your companion know ahead of time what you’d prefer their role to be.

Even if it seems unnecessary at first, make a habit of inviting your favorite people to join you for your medical adventures. You may find that you look forward to appointments because each time, you’ll be hanging out with one of the awesome people in your life.

Make a List of Questions Ahead of Time

Once you’re in the office, it’s easy to forget what topics you want to cover with your doctor. Make the most of your time by preparing a list of key points that you can refer to during the appointment. Have you had new symptoms since your last visit? Do you want to ask about a particular treatment you’re considering? Are there any fears you’d like to discuss? Write them down and you’ll be glad you have them on hand when it’s time for your one-on-one.

Plan Something Fun Afterwards

Let’s face it: most people don’t consider medical appointments to be the most thrilling of pastimes. Visiting your doctor takes mental, emotional and physical energy, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. So save a little time after your appointment to do something special and rejuvenating for yourself.

You might head to a cafe with a friend to debrief or talk about anything but medical stuff. Maybe you’d enjoy a short walk that helps you clear your mind or a trip to your favorite ice cream shop. Perhaps an evening of movies at home is in order. The idea is to choose an activity you can look forward to. You deserve a little time to unwind, de-stress and reconnect with something you love.

While medical appointments may not be your idea of a delightful afternoon, they can be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with yourself. Knowing you’ve got your own back can go a long way when it comes to living well with a chronic illness. So plan ahead, surround yourself with support and know this medical journey belongs to you.

Would you like support with building a life you love while living with a chronic illness? Let’s connect. I work with people in San Francisco who want a caring therapist that understands the ups and downs of living with a challenging medical condition.

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Thinkstock photo via DragonImages.

Originally published: June 27, 2017
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