Welcome back to our series, “Take Our Advice”! Each month, we’ll be selecting a question from our Facebook or Twitter communities, and one of our bloggers will answer it here on Living Like You. Today we’re tackling part four of our tips for talking to your doctor series. We hope you enjoy!
Be warned - this is not the usual blog about preparing for your next doctor’s visit with the typical list of suggestions about keeping track of your symptoms and noting any changes for better or worse; these are, of course, important but the main tenet of this blog is to talk about the importance of building a relationship between you and your neurologist. Whilst I appreciate that this may not always be possible within some health systems it is, nonetheless, important.
I am not suggesting that you try to become BFFs with your doctor, but it is important to be comfortable and at ease and to trust him or her with important information. This will not happen overnight; it will take time but I have found that it is worth the effort. Don’t be afraid to ask others in your community for a recommendation, either. We ask people for recommendations about where to eat; why not ask them about which doctor to use also? I, for example, have had the same neurologist for about 20 years now, and we got on well!
Honesty is important in any relationship and this cuts both ways. You must trust your doctor and believe that he is doing his best to get the best result for you but in the absence of trust the relationship is unlikely to endure. I am not suggesting that you blindly believe everything your doctor tells you; it is your responsibility to be informed, always be mindful that knowledge is power. You owe it to yourself to become an informed patient. Although your doctor can see external signs, only you can disclose the symptoms you are experiencing; particularly because some symptoms are transient, and may not be visible on the day of the appointment. Don’t be afraid to discuss the options, but be sure to discuss it with them from a position of strength and knowledge.
You are your own expert and your doctor must have confidence that you are telling the complete story. I believe in full and frank disclosure to the doctor, as complete and accurate advice, and treatment options, cannot be given in the absence of complete honesty. Embarrassment shouldn’t be a barrier to disclosure as it is quite likely that your doctor has heard it all before. If you are not confident enough to argue/discuss with your doctor bring someone with you who is.
The terms regular and frequent are often misunderstood. Regular visits to your neurologist are important but frequent visits in the absence of necessity may not be appreciated. This brings its own issues as sometimes we may be reticent about going to the doctor because we feel that the issue is not serious enough but better ‘safe than sorry’; leave the doctor to make the final decision as to the severity of the situation.
The absence of trust will make it difficult to develop a good working relationship and when that relationship is missing it may be worth considering a change, although such a move should not be made lightly; far away grass looks greener.
In the end, it is not about getting to know each other personally, but professionally. As I said your doctor should not be your BFF, but should instead be your best advocate.