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Communication breakdown

Have you ever walked out of your doctor’s office confused about your diagnosis or wondering what he or she just said about that new medication you’re supposed to take? If so, you’re not alone. As many as two-thirds of Americans ages 60 and older have difficulty understanding their healthcare provider’s advice, according to the American Medical Association. And that means many patients aren’t following their doctors’ orders or taking their meds properly, which puts their health at risk. To properly manage your health, follow these tips from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Make sure you’re comfortable talking with your doctor. A healthcare provider who listens, encourages questions and is willing to repeat things you don’t understand is a boon to your health. If you’re looking for a doctor, you can set up a preliminary visit, or consultation, to interview a provider you’re considering. Expect to pay a small fee for your visit. But it’s a tiny price to pay for good health.
  • Write down a list of questions. Whether you’re meeting a provider for the first time or going in for a routine visit with someone you’ve been seeing for years, prepare a list of questions or concerns, such as new or worsening symptoms, so you don’t forget to bring them up.
  • Take important information and items with you. Bring any new medicines or supplements you’ve started taking since your last appointment. And don’t forget your hearing aid or eyeglasses if you need either to understand your provider’s instructions. Consider bringing along a friend or a loved one to be your second set of eyes and ears.
  • Repeat instructions. Summarize what your provider says or writes by repeating the instructions back to him or her. This is a quick way to make sure you get things right or detect and correct a misunderstanding.
  • Take notes. Write down any instructions or important information your provider gives you during your visit. Or have a loved one take notes for you.
  • Get to know what ails you. The better you understand any condition you may have, the better you’ll be able to make decisions about your health. Ask your provider for easy-to-understand educational materials about your condition, such as brochures, videos and a list of reliable Web sites to visit.