Health & Wellness

Should I tell my Doctor? When to Speak Up

Jaime Cobb
By Jaime Cobb

Doctor's OfficeHow many times have you been to the Doctor and thought “I am going to tell the doctor about x, y, or z….” and then chickened out? Maybe it was too embarrassing, or you told yourself your fine and it will go away on its own. Or you did mention your concern at the last appointment but the doctor didn’t seem concerned so you don’t bring it up again. I am certain I am not the only one who has done this a time or two.

One of the most important parts of good health is how well you communicate with your doctor. This is true for all ages, but it becomes more important as we get older. Older age can bring more health conditions and treatments to consider and our health plays a bigger role in other areas of our life. Feeling comfortable with your doctor and not being afraid to ask questions is crucial in taking control of your health.

The Doctor-Patient Relationship

Doctor's Office ConsultationHow is your relationship with you doctor? Is it more like a partnership with honest conversations and exchange of ideas, or is it more like a one-sided conversation and you’re afraid to speak up? Our satisfaction with our doctors, our communication and our health go hand-in-hand. If we don’t have a good rapport and working relationship with our doctor then our health can suffer. In the past I have been too afraid of “looking dumb” and not asking the doctor to slow down or tell then I don’t really understand what you are telling me. This lack of communication has caused me more harm and more time at the doctor’s office.

I had surgery on my feet last summer and my doctor gave detailed instructions on therapy exercises I needed to do at home the first couple of weeks after surgery. He went over the instructions a couple of times and I said “Ok, I got it!” A few minutes later I left his office knowing I did not remember all the details he told, but I was sure it would come to me later. It did not come to me later. I could not remember how many times a day and for how long I was supposed to do my therapy exercises. So I guessed. At my follow up appointment he asked how my exercises were going and if I was doing it 5 times a day for 30 minutes. I was honest and told him I was only doing it 3 times a day to which he promptly replied he could tell and I should be further along in my recovery by now.

My poor communication not only pushed my recovery back three weeks it also meant more time off work, friends and family having to chauffeur me around town longer, and more trips to the doctor. My doctor would have probably been happier with me too if I would have spoken up sooner. According to Journal of Medicine doctors report they have higher satisfaction with their patients that are actively involved in their health and well-being than those who are more passive.

I learned the hard way that my lack of communication caused me more harm and inconvenience. This is a lesson I have carried with me since and now I have no fear in asking questions or say I don’t understand. The funny thing is, the more I ask and question the more I learn and the smarter I feel.

We are the ones that are in-control of our health. Honest and open communication with our doctors is key one of the easiest ways to have good health throughout our lives. Good health is true wealth!

Jaime Cobb
Jaime Cobb, is a Certified Senior Advisor and the Vice President of Community & Caregiver Education at James L. West Alzheimer’s Center.  She has developed and implemented a comprehensive Alzheimer’s & Dementia Family Caregiver Training series and other innovative programs...Read More
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