Older woman and daughter sitting on the couch and laughing together

Questions to ask mom’s doctor 

While caring for an aging parent or family member, you will accompany them to healthcare appointments. These are excellent opportunities to gain an understanding of your parent’s health, which is essential to providing adequate care.

Despite being hands-on with your parent’s care, you may be unaware of everything in their medical history or current health issues, especially if you do not reside in the same home. So, it’s important to make the most of each visit by preparing beforehand.

Keep a notebook with your questions so you know what to ask your parent’s doctor, as well as observations and other information. Bring it with you to each appointment. This will help you remember to address topics like common signs of aging , information about your parent’s daily medication and any chronic health conditions they may have.

It will also help you stay organized if your parent has multiple doctors, home care instructions, return appointments or other vital information that should be remembered.

9 questions to ask your parent’s doctor

 

  1. Can you provide more details about the diagnosis?
  2. What is each medication treating, and are there any possible side effects?
  3. I’ve noticed these changes – should I be concerned?
  4. What changes should I watch for?
  5. What exercises are best for my parent?
  6. Is my parent getting proper nutrition?
  7. Is my parent showing signs of memory loss?
  8. Is my parent eligible for any screenings? Is there testing or bloodwork that needs to be completed? If so, please explain.
  9. What should we work on before our next appointment?

Can you provide more details about the diagnosis?

Maybe your parent has a history of chronic or progressive illnesses that needs to be explained during a routine check-up. Maybe your parent is showing possible symptoms of a new illness. No matter what has brought you into the healthcare provider’s office, make sure you have a solid understanding of any condition or illness diagnosed by the doctor.

What is each medication treating, and are there any possible side effects?

Your parent may take different medications prescribed by different physicians for varying reasons. Bring a list of all current medications and supplements for discussion. Ask if any new medications are being prescribed and document instructions as well as side effects. If your parent takes multiple medications daily, remember to ask about drug interaction.

I’ve noticed these changes – should I be concerned?

Chances are you’ve noticed a multitude of changes while caring for an aging parent or family member. Some changes may be common signs of aging ; others may not. Observations such as sudden weight gain or loss, edema, new occurrences of disorientation, trouble hearing or a sudden change in vision should be discussed with the healthcare provider. Be sure to mention any recent accidents, such as falls and other injuries.

What changes should I watch for?

Whether your parent or family member has a chronic illness like diabetes or a progressive illness like Parkinson’s disease, it’s important to be knowledgeable about any symptoms that indicate an illness is getting worse or is not being managed properly.

What exercises are best for my parent?

Staying active plays an important role in aging well. Depending on your parent’s ability, unique health history and prior injuries or surgeries, some exercises may be more beneficial than others, while some may need to be avoided altogether. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend easy-to-do exercises your parent can do to be active while aging.

Is my parent getting proper nutrition?

Have you noticed a change in your parent’s appetite? Are they eating less or more? Maybe others have noticed they aren’t cooking like they used to, and you’re concerned about their food choices. A nutritious, balanced diet is essential to staying healthy while aging. Be sure to discuss this with your parent and their doctor.

Is my parent showing signs of memory loss?

Forgetfulness may be a common sign of aging, but if you or others have noticed changes in behavior or concerning moments of memory lapse, like your parent forgetting recent events or repeatedly asking the same question after it’s been answered, mention it to their physician. These things could be signs of memory loss or something else. Sometimes, treatable causes like poor nutrition or urinary tract infections can present symptoms similar to that of dementia. Proper examination is key to rule out other causes.

Is my parent eligible for any screenings? Is there testing or bloodwork that needs to be completed? If so, please explain.

Routine screens and annual physical exams can help detect and effectively treat diseases early, so help your parent stay on top of them. A blood pressure screening, colonoscopy, bone density scan, cholesterol/lipid blood test, diabetes screening, hearing test, thyroid function test, skin check and mammogram are a few common preventive health screens your parent should complete to ensure a healthy aging process. If your parent is visiting the doctor because of a suspected illness, different testing may be required.

What should we work on before our next appointment?

Ask for realistic, attainable goals to help improve your parent or family member’s health if necessary. Whether it is taking medication consistently or adopting a healthier diet, try to help your parent achieve their goal.

When accompanying your parent to doctor’s appointments, you may find yourself acting as an advocate and liaison. Encourage interaction between the healthcare provider and your parent, if possible. Position yourself as a partner to your parent, not a figure of authority. Look for cues that your parent may be confused, uneasy or overwhelmed. Be empowered to ask for clarity or to ask the healthcare provider to speak in layman’s terms: cognitive processing slows down with age and your parent may need help to understand. Also, push back on questionable judgement when you have concerns. This will empower your parent to be a willing and active participant at their appointments and with their overall well-being.

Our Checklist for What to Ask Your Parent’s Doctor (PDF)

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