3 posts tagged “Cathy”

How to prepare for a doctor’s appointment: 7 tips from member Cathy

Posted 2 months ago by

Ever feel confused or overwhelmed after a doctor’s appointment? Forget to ask important questions or bring up new symptoms? Covering all of your concerns in a 30-minute appointment can be tricky. MS community member Cathy can relate — read on to see how she’s learned to make the most of her appointments and check out her 7 tips for getting the answers she needs.

In 1986 I noticed something was awry when my legs were completely numb, my arms were weak, and I was always physically exhausted. I felt scared, isolated and confused. I scheduled an appointment with my internist who referred me to a neurologist. After a spinal tap and CT scan the tests were conclusive. I had multiple sclerosis.

I was happy to have a name for what I had but that didn’t diminish my confusion. I decided my neurologist would lighten my emotional load at my next appointment and, like Scarlett O’Hara, I’d think about it all another day. In hindsight I realize this was not a good plan.

Learning how to self-advocate

One of the most important lessons I learned over the last three decades is you must always advocate for your health instead of letting others do it for you. Self-advocacy must be our number one priority. In today’s health care climate, when doctors are often inundated and pressed for time, it’s crucial to get answers to our questions during the thirty minutes or so of medical appointments.

As Megan Weigel, a Doctor of Nursing and the president of the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses explains:

“The advice I give about preparing for a doctor’s appointment is to think about your goals for the visit and consider that your healthcare provider may have different goals. For example, you may want to talk about your top three most bothersome symptoms, and your provider may need to talk about labs…or other tests that you need. I usually tell patients to have a list of questions that they want to ask or topics that they want to discuss. I also tell them to come prepared to take notes…and to ask for what you need, including written instructions or what to follow up on in the office.”

Preparing for your next doctor’s appointment:

To avoid feeling anxious, overwhelmed or worried about doctor appointments I created a list of reminders I use so I will be fully prepared for my next visit:

  • Organize your medical history by having copies of medical records, x-rays, scans or other lab tests and the names/phone numbers of previous doctors. You can have these sent directly to your doctor from your previous doctor (you will first need to sign a consent form) either before your appointment or bring them with you.
  • Keep a journal of your symptoms. It does’t need to be elaborate, just a word or two to help you remember.
  • Bring a list of questions with you. I keep a piece of paper on my nightstand to write down questions and concerns I have. Do not leave your appointment until everything on your list is addressed.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come with you to help explain your symptoms, or to be a good listener and take notes.
  • Be specific about your symptoms, how they affect you and when they happen.
  • Bring a list of any medications and supplements you are taking including dosage and inform the doctor of any allergic reactions to medications.
  • Request a brief verbal summary and follow-up instructions to review what was discussed. If you’re nervous or need extra time to process information this review can be particularly helpful.

Remember that you and your doctor are managing your health as a team. The more prepared you are for your appointment the stronger your team will be!

How do you prepare for a doctor’s appointment? Anything you’d add to Cathy’s list? Join PatientsLikeMe to chime in and get more tips from the community.

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How to be your best health advocate

Posted 11 months ago by

PatientsLikeMe is pleased to announce a new collaboration with Cathy Chester, a wife, mother, advocate and the voice behind her blog, “An Empowered Spirit: Living a Healthy and Vibrant Life After 50.” You might’ve already seen Cathy’s #MoreThan story about her diagnosis and how she’s much more than MS. Here, Cathy dives into the importance of being your own best health advocate and how you can take charge of your health.

Self-advocacy has become a critical part of the doctor-patient relationship. It’s no longer enough for patients to relate their symptoms to their physicians and accept the response. Patients need to ask questions; they must act like detectives solving a mystery in order to find the answers they’re looking for. If you can’t find the answer you need quickly, you may end up shuttling between specialists and wondering if the professionals will ever figure out what ails you.

For example, let’s say you’re experiencing digestive issues. You start with your internist and undergo testing, but it’s inconclusive. Your doctor refers you to a gastroenterologist who performs invasive tests that produce a diagnosis. A medication is prescribed and you feel better in a few days. Weeks later your digestive issues return. Again, you call the gastroenterologist who suggests more invasive tests, or perhaps refers you to another specialist. You wonder if there are natural or holistic options because you’re hesitant about taking more prescription drugs.

What do you do? Will traditional medicine cure you? Is complementary medicine safe and reliable? Which websites provide credible information? Which doctor is trustworthy?

For me, there was nothing more important than seizing control of my health. It was a priority I couldn’t ignore. Being involved in the decision-making process can reap numerous benefits.

No one knows your body better than you, and no one has more at stake.

Here are a few steps you can take to become your own best health advocate:

Listen to your instincts – Your body is brilliant and gives you clear messages when something is wrong. Make an appointment to see a doctor if you feel something is awry.

Lists – Create a list of your health issues. Include how long you’ve been experiencing the problem, the severity of it, and list any questions you’d like to ask the doctor. Having a list to lean on is both necessary and important.

Research – Medical websites are great resources, but not all sites are reliable. Trustworthy sites should cite an article’s author and the medical credentials for the preparer or reviewer. (Examples of authoritative sites are American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, familydoctor.org, HealthyWomen.org, WomenHeart.org, National Institute on Aging, American Diabetes Association, American Stroke Association, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Institutes of Health, PubMed/National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Medlineplus, and healthfinder.gov.)

Use your voice – Speak up for yourself and insist doctors answer all of your questions. Make sure you give them thorough information and that they are listening. If you’re unhappy with your medical team find another one. Do not allow yourself to be rushed.

Understand how your health insurance plan works.

Review your medical bill for errors. Ask for an explanation if there’s an entry you don’t understand.

Get a second opinion when necessary. Ask for referrals from your doctor or people you trust.

Maintain your own health records. Learn from others who have experienced similar health issues. This can help you emotionally and provides you with the confidence to find what works for you.

Be persistent – If your doctor doesn’t return your call, call again. Insist on getting the answers you need.

Be organized – Never leave an office visit without a follow-up appointment or referrals and labs in hand. Use a written or computerized calendar to keep on top of your schedule. Take advantage of phone apps to keep you organized.

Get answers – If a doctor isn’t providing you with the answers you need find another one. Keep searching until you find what you need. Always keep your eye on the prize of wellness.

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