What Should Older Adults Ask Their Medical Provider?

Written by 
Updated June 10, 2024
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Key Takeaways

Make the most of time spent with your medical provider by asking questions that will help guide your future care and ensure the best health possible. Focus on questions that will provide actionable insights, such as those regarding long-term care, medication, activity, diet, living situations, driving safety, and memory concerns.

Doctor visits can feel overwhelming. Sometimes you might be confused by how medical providers react to your condition or the next steps you need to take. Because of that, you may be tempted to skip medical provider visits or shy away from asking questions.

But it is important to keep regular wellness visits with your medical provider – and ensure that you understand the next steps before you leave. These visits are used to discuss your general health and well-being, manage your conditions, review your medications, and make referrals to specialists.

Questions to Ask Your Medical Provider

To get more out of your next medical provider visits – and make sure you get the information you need to manage your long-term health best – here are some questions to consider asking during your visit:

1. What should I expect in the long term for my conditions?

If you understand how your condition may impact your life long-term, you can sometimes make adjustments to your lifestyle to prevent complications. This can also help you plan for potential long-term care needs and have conversations with family and friends about what to expect. Having an understanding of your conditions can also help you mentally and emotionally prepare for potential challenges.

2. Can we review my medications and discuss if I need to continue all of them at their current dose? What side effects might I expect?

Understanding your medications, side effects, and doses promotes successful management of your specific conditions. Many people have multiple prescribing physicians which can sometimes lead to a communication gap. Reviewing your medication list in detail with your primary care physician can help prevent negative medication interactions and allow you to feel more empowered as a patient.

3. Can you recommend ways I can remain safely active?

Staying active as you age is important in helping prevent injuries, falls, and even cognitive decline. Appropriate activities will likely depend on your specific medical conditions and history, as well as your medications. You’ll also want to consider your preferences for activities and access to them. Discussing these elements with your medical providers will help you achieve success.

4. Do you have any nutrition tips to maintain a healthy diet?

Nutrition is important at any age, but as you get older, your nutritional needs can change due to diagnoses or activity levels. Certain cardiac conditions, diabetes, and other diagnoses may influence the types of the foods you can eat. Although it can be frustrating to hear you may not be able to eat a certain food as often as you would like, ask about what foods you should add into your diet to support your medical needs. It is important to talk with your doctor about what nutritional changes, if any, apply to you.

5. Can my current care and living situation meet my needs?

This question is one that likely won’t be answered in one visit to your doctor. But starting the conversation will help you begin thinking of what care you may need going forward and how to best prepare. Some solutions may be affordable and easy to implement, while others may require more planning. Partnering with your physician can help you identify where to start.

6. What are the next steps in my lifestyle and care as I age? What are signs to look for that I need to take those next steps?

Many people associate aging with declining energy and capabilities. And while there is some truth to that, no one experiences these shifts at the same rate. Understanding what might indicate a necessary change can help you remain safe and successful as you age.

7. At what point should I evaluate my ability to drive safely?

Although giving up driving is a big adjustment, it may be something you can delay by making small changes over time. For example, not driving at night, not driving in unfamiliar areas, etc. Since driving uses so many physical and cognitive functions, discussing with your doctor how your specific situation may impact your driving is a proactive way to protect yourself and others.

8. What steps should we take if I (or my family) am concerned about my memory?

Discussing your memory can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss. Being open and honest with your medical provider can help by connecting you with appropriate resources, education, and support. Read our Guide to Dementia Care for more guidance.

If you find it challenging to discuss these topics with your medical provider, bringing a trusted loved one or friend to advocate for you may be helpful. Also, carry a notebook and pen to write down your questions, or to keep track of what your medical provider suggests. Even if you fully understand your medical provider’s suggestions in the office, you might forget them when you get home. Some medical providers' offices have online portals where they add notes and instructions. If you are comfortable accessing this option, ask that your physician upload visit notes for you to review later. Or ask if they can be printed for you to bring home.

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Expert reviewed by

Kelly Briggs

Kelly Briggs, M.A., LSW, CCM

Kelly is a Licensed Social Worker and Board-Certified Case Manager with a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a certificate in trauma studies. She is passionate about helping aging adults and their caregivers understand options, feel empowered in their decision making, ...

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Written by

Linda Watts

Linda Watts

Linda Watts leads content and brand voice for CareScout. She has 20+ years experience building marketing content, teams, and infrastructure for healthcare organizations, including hospitals, payers, and long-term care providers. Her goal is to help care seekers understand their options, find the ...

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