For Mom's doctors appointments, remember the three P's
Doctors appointments can be tough on your mom, when she’s faced with ever-changing offices and doctors, distant parking, check-in terminals, increased testing, shorter appointments ... all at an age when her hearing, vision, thinking and confidence aren’t where they were even five to 10 years ago.
To improve the odds of her staying healthier and happier, and living longer, it helps to focus on the three P’s to improve the outcomes of her appointments.
The days before her appointment are as important as the 20 minutes your mom will spend with the doctor. It’s time to discuss who she’ll be seeing, why, where and when, and to create a plan for the day.
Help her prepare by asking questions she might be asked: “How have you been since last visit?” “Do you have pain?” “Are you eating and sleeping well?” “Are you tolerating your medicine?” “Do you need refills?” Then ask her to think of questions she might have for the doctor.
On the day before the appointment, help her pack a bag with reading material, cards, a crossword, digital photos or a craft, to pass the inevitable waiting time. Especially if her hearing is failing, not all rooms will be conducive to conversation. And prepare for the ubiquitous waiting room TV, too loud and tuned to something intolerable. Finally, don’t forget her insurance cards!
There are a few steps you can take to start appointment day on the right foot. To summarize: Leave way too early so she can set the walking pace all day; leave your car running at the curb to walk her in – then park; and step in immediately if there’s digital check-in.
During the appointment, for the sake of her dignity, resist the urge to take charge. But be ready with pad, pen and questions. Remember that Mom probably has a disproportionate reverence for the words of her doctor and may be bashful about asking questions, which is a big reason you’re there. You’ll find that doctors appreciate the extra set of ears. They’re no more interested in repeat visits than you are in taking more days off from work for these appointments.
I cannot over-stress this point: If Mom’s over 75, there’s no way she should be there alone, and the friendly neighbor or retirement village driver are absolutely not qualified to act as her co-pilot. (I have a recommendation if you can’t find someone to stand in if you’re unavailable.)
Almost everything in the previous two P’s is wasted if there’s no proper follow-through. It’s up to you and your mom to make sure that the advice is heeded, the prescription is filled and taken, the exercises are performed, and the diet is followed.
At her age, there’s truly nothing more important to your mom than her health. Everything else – her ability to get out, stay connected, maintain friendships, enjoy her grandchildren – depends upon it. Cutting corners on follow-through leads to poorer health and more appointments, or worse.
My prescription for you: Try to budget time with your mom for a post-game lunch.
Then as you drive home, allow yourself some satisfaction in knowing that without your help, today might have been an ordeal for your mom. When she's safely home, think about how lucky both of you are to have this time together.
Mike Nock is the founder of Thrive Westshore (thrivewestshore.com), which enhances the lives of retirees living at home. Previously he was founding director of an entrepreneurship program at Baldwin-Wallace University, and co-founder of Nock Inc, which for 23 years published customized nightly newsletters for institutional portfolio managers. Mr. Nock is a graduate of Williams College and St. Ignatius High School, and lives in Bay Village with his wife and two teens.