Haims: How to avoid appointment amnesia
Not long ago, my wife and I had dinner at a friend’s house. As the night progressed and we shared personal anecdotes, my wife and I found ourselves laughing and mocking my buddy as his wife chastised him for how wrong his recollection was of an appointment he recently had with a surgeon about a knee replacement.
My friends and I often playfully challenge each other. We enjoy challenging each other’s viewpoints, and teasing each other on our successes and failures. The playful banter back and forth keeps us on our toes and most often proves very entertaining. Well on this night, the playful banter was particularly poignant.
The information he relayed to us was of particular importance to me as I am planning on having a knee replacement this year as well. I started to recall my initial appointment with my knee surgeon and realized I couldn’t recall all his information and recommendations. It could have easily been my wife and friends poking fun at me.
How much and how well do you remember what your doctor told you at your last medical appointment? If you didn’t remember every detail your doctor told you, you’re not alone.
While probably not scientifically proven, I’ve heard that most people remember about 60% of what is said to them while at doctor’s office. When traumatic information is discussed, this drops to about 30%.
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Have you ever left a medical appointment and forgotten what the doctor said about the frequency you need to take medication? It’s just a little appointment amnesia. No biggie, right? While the simple solution here was to read the directions on the medication bottle, what about other directions?
Further, have you ever been frustrated that you had forgotten to ask a doctor a question at the appointment and remembered after you left the office? What about more important directions like what to do before or after a surgical procedure? Do you remember such information exactly as it was conveyed and discussed?
As a child, parents most often attend medical appointments. They listen to the doctor, ask questions, and then follow the prescribed course of action. As we grow up, we attend our own medical appointments by ourselves. We discuss and convey our concerns with the doctors and develop a plan together without the need of anyone else to help. After all, we’re adults. We can ask question and follow directions. Right?
Errors in our recollection?
My friend is in his 50s and on most days, he is sharp as a tack. He is an avid skier, mountain biker, all-around athlete, and by trade he is a very successful contract attorney. I’d assume that as a contract attorney, attention to detail and the ability to clearly hear the needs of the client would be paramount. Well, according to his wife, his listening skills suck. In explaining to us what life looked like post-surgery, he explained he’d be in the hospital for a week or so then a couple weeks of PT at home. He continued to tell us that he won’t be able to work for over a month and that it’ll probably be a couple months before he bikes again.
It was about this point of his conversation that his wife couldn’t listen any longer. She was visibly busting at the seams. She interjected that his whole timeline was off and was furious that he was conveying “bad information.” If I had the forethought to video this evening, I’d have a YouTube hit. She rebuked and rode him like a bucking bronco — we laughed at his expense the whole evening.
Helping with medical matters
For patients that are older (and not so old) medical appointments can be difficult and confusing. Keeping track of details, making sure information and care is coordinated among multiple doctors, and keeping track of medications and times to take medications can be challenging.
That is why taking along a friend or family member just to make sure you remember the intricacies of your medical appointment may not be such a bad idea. People who take an active part in their health care fare far better than others. If having another person attend medical appointment is not a choice, there are other options.
Keep an updated log of your health history and bring it with you. This includes past procedures, test results, existing allergies, and all medications, vitamins and/or supplements you are taking. Also, consider bringing a list of questions with you beforehand; it’ll help set priorities for what you want to accomplish during your visit.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.