This online resource helps older adults prepare for doctor’s visits

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Between new technologies, a confusing health-care system, hurried providers and health issues such as memory and hearing loss, doctors and aging patients sometimes have trouble finding common ground. And negative stereotypes about aging can leave patients feeling condescended to or unheard.

A free website can help older patients prepare for those conversations.

It’s packed with information from the National Institute on Aging on everything from choosing a doctor to confronting sensitive issues — and it’s designed for both patients and caregivers.

Breakdowns in doctor-patient communication are common. A 2021 survey by the AHIMA Foundation found that nearly 2 in 3 American adults are not “extremely confident” they understand the health information they discuss with their physician. The pandemic hasn’t helped — personal protective equipment, telehealth and provider burnout all affect medical conversations.

The NIA site counters those challenges with articles and printable worksheets that deal with recording family health history, choosing a new doctor, discussing life changes during a doctor’s visit, prioritizing which concerns to share and tracking medication.

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For providers, the site offers tips for “talking with your older patient” and improving communication.

The tips are worth checking out for younger people, too — especially the ones on how to get the most out of a doctor’s visit. One analysis of 2017 health record data found that the average primary care checkup lasts just 18 minutes, and the NIA’s advice could help you milk every precious moment of doctor-patient face time.

Particularly helpful is a suggestion to record checkups (with permission from everyone involved) with a smartphone or audio recorder. The agency also encourages people to seek out other members of the health-care team, including pharmacists and physician assistants, who may have more time and availability than doctors.

Ready to learn more? Visit nia.nih.gov, or click directly to the doctor-patient communication site at bit.ly/betterdoctalks