When I’m asked about making sure a doctor’s visit is helpful for the patient, my primary suggestion is to take a family member or friend along as an advocate. Overattentive Families May Be Underrated, from the New York Times, illustrates how important it is for a patient to have an effective advocate.
I’m using the term “effective advocate” intentionally. Overaggressive, rude or otherwise irritating family members can harm more than they help.
Trying to help a friend who had been in a car accident, I overstepped that boundary — at least the doctor thought I did. We waited more than two hours for her to have a cast removed. She had a head injury, so was sensitive to sound and bright lights, and she couldn’t stay upright for long without nausea. The waiting room, practically floodlit with fluorescents, was full of patients and, thus, noise.
No rooms were available, so we moved to the bathroom across the hall. There we stayed, lying on the tile floor with the lights out. Periodically I checked on the doctor’s schedule. By the time he got to the room, I was furious and he was none too pleased by my pushiness.
He barely acknowledged her and began to saw the cast off with little explanation. His answers to our questions were curt. When I pressed for more information, he repeated previous answers, closed the chart and bolted out the door.
He was angry with me, but seemed to be and egotistical jerk anyway. What he saw as belligerent another doc could have called assertive. Nonetheless, it was the wrong move in this situation.
I can’t imagine any of my doctors being as rude as my friend’s doc, but Hart is a great advocate. Faking it is my default mode in public. Hart’s assessment of my pain levels are more accurate than mine and he knows I underestimate on pain scales. He also thinks to ask questions that I have forgotten or not even thought of.
Take someone to your appointments if you can, but be sure to choose carefully. While your mom may know you best, a friend can advocate for you without the clouded judgment of a mother who wants her baby “fixed.” The person you take should have accurate knowledge of your pain levels, know what your goals for the appointment are and be able to talk to you about what they got from the appointment.