Feel Like Your Doctor’s Not Listening? Advocate For Yourself (and Know When To Move On)

Navigating the healthcare system can be a complex and often challenging experience.

For older adults, hospitalization poses greater risks for health complications such as infection, falls, confusion, weakness, and bedsores. To address these concerns, ensure proper care and possibly avoid a hospital stay, advocating for oneself becomes crucial. 

It’s a common complaint we hear from older adults who say they have experienced discrimination in a healthcare setting. Increased feelings of anxiety in anticipation of a visit to the Doctor can lead to a poor exchange of communication. The result leaves a patient walking out, feeling like their concerns weren’t heard uneasy, even dismissed, tragically with questions

they were too intimidated to ask. Studies show this happens most often when:

  • The Doctor rushes the visit
  • The Doctor didn’t believe them when they explained their symptoms or how they feel
  • The Doctor acted rudely and/or arrogantly towards them
  • The Doctor provided incorrect or bad information

If you are a caregiver, whether your loved one is living with you or not, chances are you be called on to act as their advocate. Of course, it would be nice if most providers incorporated more supportive communication behaviors to increase patient satisfaction. The reality is that patients and caregivers can also learn how to take a more active role in their interactions with medical professionals by learning how to ask questions and speak up for themselves.

Recognizing signs of a positive doctor-patient relationship is essential for your well-being. Seek healthcare providers who treat you with respect, show empathy towards your concerns, and communicate clearly.

Recognize Concerning Behaviors in Your Healthcare Professionals:

  • Disrespectful treatment of staff. Avoid doctors who treat their staff poorly. If the support staff, nurses, physician assistants are nervous around the provider, or even afraid to make a mistake, your care will undoubtably suffer.
  • Speaks condescendingly toward you or others. Choose a provider who communicates with respect and avoids talking down to you.
  • Displays a lack of empathy. Prioritize providers who show empathy and acknowledge your emotions during medical situations. If they do not notice you are upset or appear to even care, find another Doctor, it’s not a good fit.
  • Makes you feel intimidated or manipulated into having examinations or procedures with or without explanation as to why they are medically necessary. When it comes to your body, you have every right to refuse treatment at any time. Even if it may feel awkward at that moment, don’t agree to any procedure without understanding how it’s done or why it’s important.
  • Refuses to answer your questions or provide you with information about your condition. If they can’t explain your diagnosis, that’s scary. Even worse, they won’t. Find someone else.

What you can do

If you feel your doctor-patient relationship may not be working, here are some tactics to try to evaluate or improve the communication to see If it may be time to leave:

  • Be informed about your own health. Being informed about your own health is empowering. Maintain a detailed medical record that outlines your medical history, current medications, and any ongoing treatments. This record can serve as a valuable reference during doctor's appointments and medical interactions, ensuring accurate and comprehensive communication.
  • Engage a Caregiver or Advocate. If possible, involve a trusted family member, friend, or caregiver in your medical interactions. Livindi makes it easy for a anyone to come with you to an appointment from anywhere in the world using the Helper App. Having that extra pair of ears can help ensure that important details are not missed and provide a support system in advocating for your needs.
  • Educated decision making. You have the right to understand your medical condition and any proposed treatments. Refuse any examinations or procedures if you don't fully understand their necessity. A doctor who values your understanding and consent will take the time to explain these aspects to you.
  •  Trust your intuition. If you're feeling uneasy or dismissed during a medical visit, remember that your voice matters. Politely ask questions, express your concerns, and seek explanations for any medical decisions. Clear and assertive communication demonstrates your engagement in your own care.

If you and your care team determine it’s time to leave, here are some points to consider when interviewing potential new Doctors:

  • Communication Style. Find a doctor who listens actively and responds respectfully.
  • Answers your questions. Ensure the doctor is willing to answer your questions and provide information about your condition.
  • Shows Empathy. Look for a provider who shows understanding and empathy towards your health journey.

Finally, remember to Prioritize Self-Care. Your well-being is a priority. Advocating for yourself is not only about medical interactions but also about maintaining overall health through proper nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

By employing these strategies, older adults can actively engage in their healthcare experiences to promote better overall health outcomes.