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Talking to your doctor

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  • Talking to your doctor
  • Posted date:
  • 01-08-2016
Talking to your doctor

Talking to your doctor about end of life care

When you are told that you have a life-limiting condition the shock and distress can make it difficult to absorb the information that your doctor is giving you. Googling for information can also be terrifying. There is so much information out there that it can be impossible to know what’s safe and accurate and what’s frankly dangerous.

If you want to know more about your illness, how the disease may develop and what you should expect in the future then it can help to prepare before you talk to your doctor, so that you get all the answers you need.

Planning and preparation

This is a stressful time for you and your family and let’s face it, a doctor running a busy outpatient clinic can be intimidating. Sometimes the most important questions can slip out of your mind. However, by thinking and planning ahead you can ensure you make the very best of the time available and stay in control of the consultation so that you can make the right choices for your future.

It will help to consider in advance what you want to achieve from your appointment. Write any questions or concerns down, so that you don’t forget them in the heat of the moment. It may help to take a trusted friend or family member to provide support, take notes and offer an alternative listening ear.

Some people ask to record the consultation with a smart phone or similar so that they can listen to the information again at a later date. The questions you ask will be specific to your needs and concerns, however these may help as a starting point:

  • What symptoms will I develop and will they be controlled?
  • Where can I find reliable information?
  • Do you have any idea of how long I have left?
  • What treatments will I be offered?
  • Is there anything I can do to make a difference to my own health and wellbeing?
  • Who can I talk to about my worries?
  • What support is available for me and my family?
  • How can I arrange for a second opinion?

When you see your doctor it’s important to let them know how you are really feeling physically and psychologically. Don’t put on a brave face, by being honest and open it will be easier for your doctor to understand and respond to your questions and your needs.

Medical information can be confusing and the language is often difficult to comprehend. If you don’t understand what the doctor is saying, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed, ask them to go through it again with less complicated language or using pictures to illustrate the facts.

Remember, this consultation is for your benefit. Feel free to take notes, record the conversation, ask questions or request a copy of any letters or treatment summaries. Armed with all the information available, you will be able to plan for the future, understand the treatments that are available to you and ensure you are able to make the right choices so that you can live as well as possible in the time available.

Find out more about the range of palliative care services that we offer throughout London.