Diagnosing and managing your neurologic disorder is a partnership between you and your neurologist. Much of this partnership relies upon sharing your health information.
You want your doctor to know all about your symptoms, medical history, and any prior test results. This way he or she can be more effective in diagnosing and treating your disorder.
Likewise, you want to get answers to your questions so that you and your loved ones can better understand the disorder and treatments, and how they will affect your daily life.
You can get the most out of your doctor visit if you are fully prepared. Most people visiting a neurologist want and need to have the following questions answered:
- What type of disorder do I have?
- How will this disorder affect my health?
- What is the treatment and what will it do?
- How will this disorder affect my daily life and activities?
When answering these questions, you and your neurologist will be exchanging a lot of information. It often helps to have a family member or friend with you to listen, take notes, or ask questions.
You might think about your visit with the neurologist as having several stages. During each stage there are actions which can help you be prepared.
Even if you have already met with your neurologist, these tips can be helpful for future visits or if you are referred to other medical specialists.
Pre-visit Planning Activities
- Write down the questions you would like to ask. List the most important questions first. It might be helpful to get a small spiral-bound notebook or folder to keep these questions and answers in one place and so you can add information or questions throughout your treatment.
- Ask a relative or friend to come with you to the visit. A second set of ears may be helpful.
- Gather all your medications in a bag to bring to your visit. Or write down in your notebook their names, dosage, and how often and what time you take them. Be sure to include supplements and over-the-counter medications.
- Prepare your "health history" (previous illnesses, hospitalizations, allergies, etc.) and bring it to the visit. You may want to ask your neurologist if there is a form you can complete prior to the visit. You may also want to bring your family members' health histories. Their health information may help the neurologist diagnose your condition.
- Bring other medical information and test results, such as lab work, x-rays, and MRIs. For radiological studies, ask the office if they prefer copies of the films or if reports are adequate. You may also ask your primary doctor to send records directly to your neurologist's office.
- Bring a list of the doctors you want your neurologist to update about your medical condition. Be sure to include their telephone, fax numbers, and addresses.
- Bring your insurance card and referral, if needed.
At the Office
- Plan to arrive early to complete any forms that may be needed. If you do not understand the questions or forms, ask for help—it is your right to have information explained to you.
- Give the neurologist any information about your symptoms or condition, even though you may feel that it may be unimportant or embarrassing
- Take notes or have your companion take notes on what the neurologist tells you. If you don't understand the doctor, don't be afraid to ask for more information.
- Ask the doctor the questions you wrote out during your pre-visit planning activities, even if you may feel the questions are not important.
- Ask for handouts or Internet information that you can share with your family or review when you are at home.
- Make a follow-up appointment, if necessary.
- Find out when your neurologist will get back to you with your test results.
- Know what the next steps are in your care.
- If your neurologist prescribes medication, make sure you fully understand:
- What has been prescribed and what it should do for you
- If there is a generic substitution that is acceptable
- Exactly when and how long you are to take your medication(s)
- The potential side effects of the medications and what to do if they occur
Back at Home
- Review the information you got from the neurologist's office. If you can't remember or don't understand something you were told, call the office to get the information you need.
- Follow the neurologist's instructions. Managing your disorder is a partnership between you and your neurologist.
- Make sure any medication you get at the pharmacy or through your mail order pharmacy benefits plan is what has been prescribed for you.
- Call your neurologist's office if:
- There are any complications or changes in your condition
- You experience any side effects from the medications
- You need to follow up on your test results
There are two important legal documents that can help you and your caregivers manage your care and personal affairs. They would go into effect if you become incapacitated for any reason.
- Advance Health Care Directive. The Advanced Health Care Directive is a written statement of how you want care to be provided and the designation of an agent who is authorized to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Many states have now combined the "living will" and the "durable power of attorney for health care" into one advance directive document.
- Durable Power of Attorney. This document names the person who has the legal authority to pay your bills, deposit your checks, and handle your day-to-day matters. These documents are generally tailored to the legal specifications of each state. Before discussing your situation with an attorney, you may wish to contact your state department of health.
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