Better senior health: How to get the most from your doctor

We all know that as we get older, a variety of ailments are bound to pop up ranging from arthritis to bone diseases to fractures, falls, and even more serious illnesses like diabetes or cancer.

We also know that unlike when we were younger, we don’t bounce back from even minor ailments as quickly as we might have when we were younger. It’s simply a fact of growing older.

As we age, senior health episodes can become life-threatening more quickly so it’s important to have a good relationship with your doctor.

However, it’s most important that you communicate well with your doctor so he can help you more effectively.

Here are a few tips:

Be prepared. Before arriving at the doctor’s office, make a list. Write down the issues you wish to discuss, and be as comprehensive as possible.

Let the doctor know of changes you’ve seen in your general health or particular symptoms you’ve seen.

Make a list of all the medications, vitamins, supplements etc that are taken. If lab tests were completed recently, bring the results with you.

Ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions. Nothing should be off limits. Your doctor, as they say, “has seen it all before,” so don’t be shy.

If you don’t understand something, speak up. If your doctor is describing what might be wrong or is discussing a course of action, don’t be afraid to ask him to clarify something you don’t understand, or to speak in “layman’s terms.”

Ensure you understand the outcomes that should be achieved. For example, ask how you’ll know if the course of action is working or if the medication is doing its job.

What if you are not getting better? Before you leave the doctor’s office, you should know what to expect in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Understand the side effects of medication. Most medications may have a number of side effects, with some being just an annoyance, while others are more serious.

Talk to your doctor about side effects that should not worry you, and those that could be cause for concern. Knowing this will put your mind at ease.

Understand what the doctor means if he refers you to a specialist. If your doctor believes you need to see a specialist, ask the doctor why this is the case and what you should expect.

Also, ask the doctor about the qualifications of the specialist as you likely won’t know this new doctor.

After you’ve seen the specialist, ensure your primary doctor and your specialist are in communication about your case.

Get written instructions. Before leaving your doctor’s office, write down – or ask the doctor to do so – specific instructions on next steps so you don’t forget anything.

Remember, your doctor is working for you. Make sure you get the most out of the appointment. It’s their job and it’s your (or your loved ones) health.

This article was written by Andrew Mastrandonas, Co-founder and CEO of Pillar ( and reviewed by Dr Lim Geng Yan (M.D). Pillar provides a range of elderly home caregiving services, sending trained and certified professional caregivers and nurses to clients’ homes. For more information please visit