While you navigate life after brain injury doctors’ appointments are going to be a big part of your life. Here’s our guide to streamlining your doctors appointments and making the most of your time.
1) Package of your information
- symptoms – if possible add in examples as you notice them in your daily life (are there certain tasks that are causing headaches? are you dizzy only when getting out of bed? etc) If you find yourself noticing changes in your abilities and you aren’t sure if they are related please check out the Terminology blog posts I’ve included in this website to see some examples.
- current sleep patterns and if you feel rested when you wake up
- current schedule or activities of daily living (ADL)
- medications and nutritional supplements that you are taking
- a list of your thoughts for items 2 and 3 listed below
Creating a list of all of these is good – if you can compare to premorbidity it is better. This is where it is excellent to involve loved ones or your co-workers if you’ve been at work and feel comfortable asking them for help. Premorbidity is your status prior to the brain injury.
For example: You may say you have headaches 3 times a week. If you had headaches 3 times a week before the injury it may not be related. If the headache is sharper, or in a different location it may be a symptom but your doctor needs to rely on you to distinguish that.
Similarly if you can’t make coffee without the cup overflowing but pre injury you worked the 6am busy shift at Tim Hortons without breaking a sweat that would be very helpful for your doctor to know. That difference between now and premorbidity allows doctors to judge what your symptoms are and how severe they are/if they get better with time and rest.
2) Referrals and paperwork
Doctors are busy and a lot of them don’t specialize in brain injuries. Some don’t even stay up to date with the research. If you know of a rehab program or a specialist you want to be referred to (check out my Terminology blog posts for some examples) come in prepared and ask your doctor for the referral. Often you will get it. If not your doctor should be able to explain why they don’t feel it is a good fit or what they would recommend instead.
Similarly if you need paperwork filled out for disability, lawyers, police etc come prepared with the paperwork or a written outline of what is needed. Make it very clear so that your doctor doesn’t have to struggle or play phone tag with your lawyer to get you the information you need.
3) Requests for care
As much as you may not want to admit it things have changed. It’s okay asking your doctor to change how they care for you. They may have specific hours that the waiting room is quieter and they can see you then. There may be something specific you need to ask reception for when booking your appointment so that paperwork can be filled out during your appointment. Ask what you should do if you notice things are getting worse and you can not work. Make sure you have extra business cards to give to any other doctors you see so that they can send all reports to your doctor (and with business cards you aren’t responsible for remembering their fax number!).
It’s also worth asking your doctor to write down their recommendations for you so that you can reference them later.
4) Find an appointment buddy
Maybe you used to be able to handle everything on your own. It’s entirely acceptable that post brain injury you may need more help. One of the crucial events I would ask you to accept help with would be doctors appointments.
Beyond the stress that driving to an appointment and then needing to sit in a busy waiting room these appointments are going to be extremely important in getting you referrals and resources to move forward in your care. Even if you are able to answer all your doctor’s questions if they make a decision you don’t agree with you may have no more energy to fight. Recruit someone to help doctors appointments right away and ask them to get educated on brain injuries.
If you don’t have family or friends that are able to attend appointments or are emotionally capable of staying on task at the appointments please contact the brain injury association nearest you (http://biac-aclc.ca) and often they can send a representative with you to appointments. They are not to give you medical counsel but are able to take notes, do the driving, ask questions and make sure any paperwork gets completed.
Your doctor may require that you sign a release of information document in order to talk to these individuals.