When you go to see a doctor, often the visit seems to be over in a flash and you leave wondering exactly what it was the doctor wanted you to do. Doctors are often quite busy and may not present you with all the necessary information so it is your responsibility to take steps to get the most out of your visit.
If regular visits with your physician seem short, and taken up with medical details like seizure control and medication issues, ask in advance for a longer time to be scheduled to deal with other issues that are important to you. If necessary, ask for a separate appointment to discuss your questions and concerns. Often the nurse who works with your doctor will have additional time to talk with you, at the time of your appointment or by phone.
Make sure you keep a daily seizure diary. Each time a seizure occurs, write down the time, the type of seizure it was and how long it lasted. Write down any major stresses or recent life changes that could trigger seizure activity. All of this can help your doc can get a better idea of what’s going on with you. Also, seek input from people who may observe your seizures — including family, friends and co-workers — so that you can record information you may not know.
Bring along a family member or friend to help describe your seizures or to take notes during visits to your doctor. They can offer support and a second pair of ears. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided during your appointment. Plus, they may remember something that you missed or forgot. And a second set of ears along with someone else there taking notes, can be both comforting and invaluable after your visit.
And let your doc know how you’re responding to your current medications. Be sure to share your concerns about any side effects, drug reactions, behavior changes, physical changes, trouble sleeping, loss of memory, or even brain fog. Accurate reporting will help you and your doctor make decisions together about a treatment plan that works for you. There are many good anti-seizure meds out there and if you don’t tolerate one, you and your doctor can try another to see if it works better.
Come armed with questions
Preparing a list of questions in advance will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. List your questions and the doctor’s answers from most important to least important in case time runs out.
During your appointment, you may feel overwhelmed by the information or the doctor may be using medical mumbo jumbo terminology you don’t understand. He may even be going too fast. If this happens, you need to let the doctor know so that he can slow down, rephrase or even write notes or draw diagrams for you if necessary.
Be persistent in asking your questions until you fully understand the explanation. If you don’t understand a diagnosis or treatment, ask more questions — take more notes.
Make sure you understand the script and whether name brand or generic will make a difference to your condition. And make sure you know exactly what the doctor wants you to do before you leave the office.
Ask about follow-up and get a contact number so if you happen to think of more questions, or forgot something the doctor told you, you can call the office immediately and request the information.
And if the doctor gives you the bum’s rush, or doesn’t respond to your questions, don’t hesitate to ask for a second opinion or else find another doctor who will work with you and care.
Forge a relationship
Good medical care is based on a partnership between the doctor and the patient. Therefore, it’s important to communicate your concerns clearly. Let your doctor know what is important to you and what concerns you have. Discuss your expectations — don’t be timid. Decisions about how to treat your seizures should include your opinions and goals for the future.
And when you leave, look your doctor straight in the eye and shake his hand as you say good-bye. Because together, you are both partners in the business of your health.
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About the author
Phylis Feiner Johnson has been a professional copywriter for 30 years. She also spent 20 years with epilepsy. She writes from the heart to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. For further information, contact The Epilepsy Foundation of Eastern Pennsylvania at http://www.efepa.org/ and please make a contribution to become an advocate, too.