Bringing a friend or family member on doctor’s appointments

by Diana E. Lee

Most of the resources I’ve read about how to prepare for a doctor’s appointment recommend bringing a loved one with you so that person can help you remember what the doctor said and make sure you get your questions and concerns addressed.

But when I read Paula Kamen’s book All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache, I was surprised to learn about the negative conclusions one of her doctors drew about her emotional stability based on her decision to bring her mother with her to her appointments.

On page 87 of her book, Kamen describes the contents of a letter written by one of her former doctors.

It turned out he thought I was behaving erratically and mistakenly believed that I had not even tried the drug he had prescribed. He also interpreted my financial dependence as some kind of motivation for the so-called pain. And he saw the presence of my mother—oh, the poor mother, always an object of blame in psychoanalytic theory—as signaling some kind of warped and stifling relationship, instead of one human helping out another in need.

I think Kamen’s experience begs the question of whether you do yourself more harm than good by bringing a close friend or family member with you to your appointments. Obviously, you need to make sure you pick the right kind of person to come with you. Don’t choose someone who is known to interrupt people or talk over them. Don’t choose someone who might be combative or difficult to deal with. Choose someone who understands his or her role in being there and is willing and able to fulfill that role.

I usually take someone with me to out of town doctor’s appointments because I never know if I will feel up to driving myself. Sometimes I also receive treatments that require someone to drive me home. My husband can’t easily get away from work because he works for himself and is trying to get established in his field, so either my mom or dad (or both) comes with me. They are the perfect type of people to bring with you. They pay close attention to what is being said, but don’t interrupt. They are patient with the sometimes long waits and never act put out when plans change on the fly. I really don’t have any qualms about taking my mom, dad or husband with me to appointments regardless of what a doctor might think of me or them. It’s a necessity and stressing out about it doesn’t change that.

Do you bring a loved one with you to your doctor’s appointments? Have the results been good or bad or a little of both?

Diana E. Lee is a chronic migraine patient who blogs at Somebody Heal Me.

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