4 Tips to Help You Remember the Doctor’s Instructions

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The National Institute on Aging shared that no matter what your age, it’s easy to forget a lot of what your doctor says. Even if you are comfortable talking with your doctor, you may not always understand what he or she says. So, as your doctor gives you information, it’s a good idea to check that you are following along. Ask about anything that does not seem clear. For instance, you might say: “I want to make sure I understand. Could you explain that a little more?”or “I did not understand that word. What does it mean?”

Another way to check is to repeat what you think the doctor means in your own words and ask, “Is this correct?” Here are some other ideas to help make sure you have all the information you need.

  • Take notes. Take along a notepad and pen and write down the main points, or ask the doctor to write them down for you. If you can’t write while the doctor is talking to you, make notes in the waiting room after the visit. Or, bring an audio recorder along and (with the doctor’s permission) record what is said. Recording is especially helpful if you want to share the details of the visit with others.
  • Get written or recorded materials. Ask if your doctor has any brochures, DVDs, or other materials about your health conditions or treatments. For example, if your doctor says that your blood pressure is high, he or she may give you brochures explaining what causes high blood pressure and what you can do about it. Ask the doctor to recommend other sources, such as websites, disease management centers, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies that may have written or recorded information you can use.
  • Talk to other members of the healthcare team. Sometimes, the doctor may want you to talk with other health professionals who can help you understand and carry out the decisions about how to manage your condition. Nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and occupational or physical therapists may be able to take more time with you than the doctor.
    • Call or email the doctor. If you are uncertain about the doctor’s instructions after you get home, call the office. A nurse or other staff member can check with the doctor and call you back. You could ask whether the doctor, or other health professional you have talked to, has an email address or online health portal you can use to send questions.

    For More Information About Questions to Ask the Doctor During an Appointment

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    1-800-232-4636 (toll-free)
    1-888-232-6348 (TTY/toll-free)
    cdcinfo@cdc.gov
    www.cdc.gov

    Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
    1-800-633-4227 (toll-free)
    1-877-486-2048 (TTY/toll-free)
    www.medicare.gov

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