Heath and Aging

Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People

Opening Thoughts: Why Does It Matter?

How well you and your doctor talk to each other is one of the most important parts of getting good health care. But, talking to your doctor isn’t always easy. It takes time and effort on your part as well as your doctor’s.

Doctor's stethoscope and tools, showing importance of good doctor-patient communication during medical appointment

You can communicate with your doctor better by taking an active role in your health care.

In the past, the doctor typically took the lead and the patient followed. Today, a good patient-doctor relationship is more of a partnership. You and your doctor can work as a team, along with nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers, to manage your medical problems and keep you healthy.

This means asking questions if the doctor’s explanations or instructions are unclear, bringing up problems even if the doctor doesn’t ask, and letting the doctor know if you have concerns about a particular treatment or change in your daily life. Taking an active role in your health care puts the responsibility for good communication on both you and your doctor.

All of this is true at any age. But, when you’re older, it becomes even more important to talk often and comfortably with your doctor. That’s partly because you may have more health conditions and treatments to discuss. It’s also because your health has a big impact on other parts of your life, and that needs to be talked about too.

Publication Date: December 2016
Page Last Updated: February 23, 2017