Sunday, 18 March 2018

Top 5 tips for preparing for a neurology appointment

The clue is really in the title for this. Prepare. I believe preparation is key to a successful doctor’s appointment. Appointments with your neurologist or headache specialist are extremely important in aiding your recovery. Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of the short time you have with your specialist.
1. Make notes

A couple of days before a big appointment I like to write down a few short notes for the appointment so I have something to refer to when I’m there and my mind inevitably forgets everything. Write down what you wish to discuss, any questions you may have for your doctor or any other notes you feel may be beneficial for you. Don’t be afraid to take out your notes in the appointment and refer back to them. Doctors will respect your organisation and the fact you have thought about the appointment in advance. Nothing says you are taking your health seriously like crossing off your own points of action notes during an appointment.

It can also be useful to jot a few notes down during the appointment. For example, the name of a new medication they would like you to try. It may take weeks for their referral letter to reach your GP. If you have the medication and details surrounding it written down, you are sometimes able to get your GP or healthcare provider to prescribe it to you sooner.

2. Think about what you want to achieve

I don’t mean sit and think about what you want to achieve in life. By all means do that in your own time. Sit and think about what you really want to get out of your appointment. What is the reason and the purpose of this appointment? What do I want to get my doctor to understand? What new medications do I want to discuss? What questions do I have that I need answering? Thinking carefully in advance of your appointment really helps to feel more in control and relaxed going in. If you know what you need to say and what you want to discuss it should help you guide the appointment in the best direction for you. It’s far more stressful if you turn up and haven’t thought about what to say. The appointment is likely to be short and you leave feeling unsatisfied or like you haven’t been listened to.

3. Bring your file

I always think with these kinds of appointments you can never bring too much with you (information wise). Leave the kitchen sink at home! Bring your medical file/notes, headache diary and anything else that you think might help. This is particularly important when seeing a new doctor. It helps them catch up on your medical history quickly and saves you having to remember every tiny detail, like what dose of medication you were on 18 months ago.

Headache diaries are so important for neurologist appointments. They are a great aid for both the patient and the doctor. They should enable you to show your doctor a great deal of information about your headaches/migraines, such as how often they are occurring and their intensity (full blog post on headache diary coming soon). Make it easy for them with a clear summary of your headache diary. Remember, you live and breathe your migraines, they don’t. So help them out and make it as easy as possible for them to understand what’s going on. Nobody wants to waste a whole appointment trying to recall how many migraines they have had in the last month for example. Know your numbers and display them clearly.

4. Do your research

It’s always fun to outsmart the specialist right? I have been known in the past to be a bit of a migraine geek in appointments. Not in an annoying teacher pet way but in a “I know what’s happening with migraines in 2018 and what treatments are available, so don’t mess with me kinda way”. Do your homework. Look into treatments both medical and alternative. See what looks like it might be right for you. This is something I would recommend regardless of whether you have an appointment coming up or not. I have found in the past it really helps if I understand some of the terminology or medication the doctor mentions prior to the appointment.

5. Bring someone with you

I cannot stress how important and beneficial I think it is to bring someone along with you to a neurology appointment. Whether it’s a friend, partner or family member, having an extra pair of ears in the room is so useful. Appointments are often exhausting and can be filled with so much information. It is hard to take everything in at the same time as participating in conversation with your doctor.

These conversations can be tricky at the best of times never mind if you have a migraine at the same time. Having someone with you who you trust and cares about you is also a great emotional support and comfort. They can often speak up for you when you have perhaps forgotten an important detail or for those tricky times when a doctor is perhaps being dismissive. It’s important to find the balance with them not suddenly bulldozing over your appointment but knowing when it’s appropriate to speak up on your behalf. Brief them beforehand too on what you’re expecting to get out of the appointment.

I really hope these tips help you prepare for your next appointment. They can be used for any doctor’s appointment but they are especially worth thinking about for those “big” appointments. I often take a list of notes into a regular GP appointment with me now just so I don’t forget anything.

Good luck at your next appointment and let me know if you have any other top tips?
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