Thursday, June 6, 2013

Should You Bring Your Partner To Your Medical Appointments?

I would say categorically, "Yes!" as long as you know your partner will be more helpful than controlling. There are several reasons why I ask Richard to accompany me, and he does likewise.

He is my memory.  When I see a new doctor, or a known doctor, it's usually at a time when I am confused about what is happening in my body and am feeling those sneaky upswings in pain.   Sometimes they just appear, uninvited and unmotivated by anything I did. When this happens, I go right to anxiety, and if the pain spikes don't subside, I call a doctor.

When I'm in this state, my memory operates in 30 second loops.  Richard is the container for the content of the whole office visit.  He remembers, and he takes notes.  He also asks questions from a different perspective than mine so we leave with richer information (which he remembers).

I also ask him to accompany me because I have one of those conditions that is elusive, with pain as the main symptom.  Therefore doctors, who need to do something, throw a lot of recommendations and medications at me.

I'm a minimalist.  I want to do the least that will have an impact.  So Richard also acts as an educated sounding board.  Alone, I would do too little and wind up back in the doctor's office.  Together we can come up with a solution that meets my specifications, and also makes sense and is most likely to have an impact.

Another reason I bring him is that together we get taken seriously.  Initially, I didn't realize that having both of us in the room would have an extra impact.  I noticed, over time that there seemed to be a slight difference, mainly with new doctors, in the way I was listened to when Richard was there.

Now, I'm white, educated, mature, assertive, have excellent grammar, and terrific insurance.  So I generally get the attention I need.

But when Richard is present, the (usually) male doctor, tends to look at him more than at me.  And spends more time in the room with us.  And since I often don't remember specifics -- like exactly when did the symptoms get worse -- and Richard, who is a scientist, does -- I think his provision of accurate data carries weight.  Whereas my more elusive telling of my story --  in which I emphasize what it feels like and not when it occurred -- may not connect as well with a scientific minded doctor.  Or it may be that seeing me as more than the pain patient in room 4, but as someone who is loved and has a life, may make the difference.

Do I like it that this is the  Will I use this advantage when I need to....yes.

I do find that Richard's presence doesn't make as much of a difference when the doctor is female.  Hmmm.

So, to add to the degree that I get taken seriously and get what I need (and to have a memory of the visit) I often bring Richard with me to appointments, especially to the first few.

And if you don't have a partner, or a partner you'd want to bring along, ask a friend to accompany you. We all could use that extra support.

What do you tend to do -- bring your partner, a friend, or go solo?


therapydoc said...

I agree, bring him/her. I love how you write, he's your memory. Am finally working on a snapshots blog and will link/quick plug your book, give the kudos you deserve. Beautiful book..

Keep on plugging, Barbara.

Getogy said...

I've read your full article and it was really helpful for me. I'll back to your blog again to read your upcoming article.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I found your blog by way of an article in More Magazine. I'm glad I did. More on that later.
As for my comment, I started bringing my hubby to my dr. appts back in about 1991 when I was initially being tested by my endocrinologist after the removal of a 2nd thyroid tumor. I was still having mysterious muscular pain and fatigue, so the dr. decided that since I'd met my deductible he'd test me for everything he could think of. Well, not only did the dr. have a thick accent I needed hubby's help with, but I also secretly wanted him there to realize that there truly was something wrong with me. I kept getting the feeling from him that he didn't believe me when I'd come home from work so wiped out that I could barely function - and I had a home, him and 2 young children to take care of. My strategy worked. All the tests revealed that I had fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis - at the age of 32. After that, hubby went to every dr. appt. (except well-woman appts), he began helping with the household chores and child rearing, and has always been supportive. Just this yr. we celebrated our 35th anniversary.

Valentin said...

This is cool!