This advice can help you better communicate with your doctor(s) to get the most out of your appointment.
1. Don’t miss appointments!
Typically, a psychiatrist is usually booked up to three months in advance and primary care physicians are booked up to at least one month. Make sure you don’t miss your appointment!
2. Bring either a list or your current medication bottles with you.
It is a good idea to keep a list of your medications (including over-the-counter meds) along with how much, when and why you take them. This can be difficult to maintain because of frequent changes, but it is worth it. If you have a list of all your meds, bring it to each doctor appointment. If you don’t have a list, bring all your current medication bottles with you.
3. Make sure each doctor is aware of what your other doctors are doing.
If you get blood work done, have the results sent to both doctors. This keeps your doctors up to date on what is happening with you and means you don’t have to get stuck twice or three times.
4. Before your appointment, organize your thoughts on paper.
Write down what you need to ask at the appointment and what you need to tell the doctor about how you are doing. There is not a lot of time with the doctor so be organized, clear and to the point.
5. Bring paper and pencil with you to take notes.
It is sometimes hard to remember everything the doctor says. If you have a problem taking notes, bring a friend or family member with you to take notes or use your case manager for this if you have one.
6. Bring a supporter to your appointment.
Some people choose to bring their significant other or another close family member with them to their appointment. Your supporters can tell the doctor how they see you have been doing and they can also be an extra pair of ears for you when the doctor is talking.
7. Be honest so the doctor doesn’t have to guess.
Doctors can’t read minds. They really can’t. If they have to guess how you are doing, they may not be able to help you. To encourage you to be honest with your doctor (and treatment team), what you disclose to them is considered confidential unless you are a danger to yourself and others.
8. Be specific about how you are doing.
When asked how you are doing, don’t just say, “I’ve been doing better.” It is more helpful for you to say something like: “Since the medication change, the racing thoughts are gone and I’m sleeping at night, but I am still really sleepy during the day.” This lets the doctor know how you are and what you all still need to work on.
9. Report side effects and symptoms.
Write down side effects and symptoms as they occur – don’t trust your memory. Make sure you tell the doctor if you having problems. Often there is another dosage or medication that you can try.
10. Bring something to read while you wait.
You may need to wait a several minutes before seeing your doctor. Bring a book or something else to keep you occupied while you wait.
Do you have anything you would add to this list?
Rev. Mary Alice Do, who has bipolar disorder, is a retired Disciples of Christ minister and has worked 16 years in the mental health community providing recovery information and advocacy. Read the rest of her posts for IBPF here, or watch her webinar on How Churches Can Promote Recovery. She also has a blog of her life story called Journey Towards Wellness.