We’ve all heard that it is important we play an active part in our healthcare treatment but ‘what exactly does that mean? Here are some of the things that I try to keep in mind when visiting my rheumatologist or physio.
1. Prepare: Before my appointment, I write down questions, items to discuss, and any changes in my condition so I can make the best use of my time with my doctor.
2. Questions: Unless I’m 100% clear on what my doctor is saying, I will ask for more of an explanation. I find that seeing x-rays or using diagrams can often help.
3. Bring a family member or a friend: Not something I have done in a while but it can make the experience of visiting the doctor less daunting. Moral support is always nice as is having someone to help you get around!
4. Describing pain and symptoms: I find it useful to think of how I am going to describe the pain and symptoms I’m experiencing in advance so I can give an accurate description during my appointment: Where are my symptoms? How much does it hurt? When did the stiffness start? Have things changed over time?
5. Recording major events: I try to jot down anything that I think might be significant in relation to my arthritis since my last visit. For example, if I’ve been having trouble with my neck at work, I will record this at the time and tell my doctor when I visit.
6. Scaling my pain: I find it useful to give the level of pain I have been feeling a number based on a scale: 1 representing no pain at all and 10 the worst pain possible. The doctor sees this as a helpful way to track my pain levels.
7. Prioritise: During my appointments I try to ask the top things that are concerning me at the beginning rather than the end. This means that if we run out of time, I will still have had the most important things covered.
8. Write down: If I’m worried that I will forget something my doctor advises, I will ask him to write it down for me so I don’t have to be concerned about not remembering some important information or detail.
9. Keep a diary: Keeping track of all of my medication, treatments, symptoms and pain levels can be very useful over time as I start to spot trends emerging. I keep track of my overall health, not just arthritis-related symptoms so I get an accurate general picture. At Arthritis Ireland we have developed ‘My Health Organiser‘ which is a handy place to store all of that information. There are also a number of mobile apps available that you can download for your phone.
For more tips on making the most of medical appointments check out ‘Let’s Talk Arthritis’ information booklet.
Laura Hickey is Arthritis Ireland’s Young Arthritis Ambassador. If you have any questions or would like to join the Young Arthritis Network, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.