Going to a doctor appointment can feel stressful, especially when you have a condition that requires multiple appointments with lots of specialists for lots of symptoms. But being able to communicate effectively with your doctor at appointments is the best way to get the right care for your needs.
To make sure you cover everything you want to in an appointment, it’s helpful to bring along some talking points in a list or outline. Here is a list of questions to take with you when you see your doctor.
1. What treatments are available to me now?
Knowing your treatment options can help you take an active role in your care. Have your doctor tell you what’s available, and then ask which one they think is the best choice for you and why.
2. What are possible medication or treatment side effects?
Treatments can often have unpleasant side effects that go along with the positive benefits. Before starting a medication or having a procedure, it’s good to be aware of these. Not everyone experiences side effects and not all side effects are dangerous, although some may be uncomfortable.
Ask your doctor what the common side effects are, and which ones require immediate medical attention.
3. How will I know if my Parkinson’s is getting more advanced?
Parkinson’s is a slow-moving disease that gets worse over a long period, so it can be hard to tell if your symptoms are actually getting worse. Ask your doctor for signs to watch for. Remember to tell your doctor if you notice something new or different in the way your body is feeling or reacting to treatment.
4. If my current treatment stops working, what are the next options?
As Parkinson’s progresses, medications may not work the way they used to. It’s good to talk about your long-term treatment plan, so you’re prepared for coming changes to your treatment.
5. Do you know if there are any clinical trials near me that I would be a candidate for?
Clinical trials are one of the final stages to long and complicated research for new treatments. They help researchers find out if a new medication or treatment method works well in certain groups of people. Before the treatment is accepted as effective and ready for use in the larger population, it must be tested.
Dr. Valerie Rundle-Gonzalez, a Texas-based neurologist, recommends asking this question of your doctor. She says you can also search the National Institutes of Health to find a clinical trial and ask your doctor if you’d be eligible.
These trials are funded by the government or other organizations, so there’s no cost to you. You also get the chance to take advantage of a new treatment that isn’t available yet.
6. Do you know if there are any new treatments that have been recently approved?
Parkinson’s research is ongoing, and as technology improves and doctors continue to learn more about the disease, more treatments will become available.
If your doctor specializes in Parkinson’s, they should be aware of new research that’s been published or treatments that have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. Not all treatment options are right for all people, but it’s good to know your options and have an open discussion with your doctor. Ask your doctor what’s new and if they think it could help you.
7. Are there any local support groups?
Support groups can be helpful because you get to meet others who are going through the same thing. If you haven’t had any luck finding one near you, your doctor may know of one.
8. Which exercise programs are safe for me?
Regular exercise can play an important role in treatment, but not every exercise program is right for someone with Parkinson’s. Your doctor can make some recommendations to steer you in the right direction.
9. What other specialists should I see at this stage?
You care team may change as the disease progresses. For example, you may not need an occupational therapist or speech and language pathologist right away. Your doctor can give referrals and talk to you about when to add new specialists to your care team.
10. What other information do you need from me?
In addition to writing down questions, you should also come prepared with a list of things to tell the doctor about your symptoms and how your medication is working. Ask what you should be paying attention to and what to keep track of between appointments.