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February 20, 2018

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Sensitive Subjects

A good relationship with your doctor is essential for staying healthy, but in today’s world, it can often seem like many doctor’s appointments are rushed, with you only getting an allotted 15 or 30 minutes of your doctor’s time before they need to move on.

This can make it difficult to speak with your doctor about sensitive issues. Couple that with any embarrassment you may be feeling about these subjects, and getting the care you need can be more difficult. If you’re struggling with how to talk to your doctor about sensitive subjects — these can include sexual issues, memory problems and even end of life wishes — these tips can help you clearly communicate how you’re feeling.

First, evaluate your doctor: Most doctors are accustomed to talking about sensitive health concerns and will try to ease any discomfort you might feel. Though it might feel like it, things like memory issues and sexual dysfunction are not a normal part of the aging process. If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously or makes you feel awkward for bringing them to his or her attention, consider finding a new physician.

Fear of falling: A fear of falling can lead you to change your activities and even the way you carry yourself, which could actually increase your risk of a fall. If you notice your fear is affecting your day-to-day life, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

Alcohol: Alcohol affects our bodies differently as we age. That’s because the amount of water in your body decreases, which makes any alcohol you consume not as diluted as it would be in your younger counterparts. Changes in life like the death of a loved one or an altered health status can cause someone to develop a drinking problem. If you think you may be developing a drinking problem, or have questions about drinking, talk to your doctor. The National Institutes of Health suggests using this script: “Lately, I’ve been wanting to have a drink earlier and earlier in the afternoon, and I find it’s getting harder to stop after just one or two. What kind of treatments could help with this?”

Grief or depression: Growing older comes with an array of life changes, and some of these changes may cause feelings of depression or the need to grieve. While these are natural, normal emotions, problems can happen if they are unrelenting or last for long periods of time. Schedule an office visit if you or someone you know is experiencing intense or persistent feelings of grief or depression.

Memory issues: Changes in memory are not part of the normal aging process. If you’re having problems remember things or thinking clearly, talk to your doctor. When doing so, be as specific as you can about what you’ve noticed. Try this script from the National Institutes of Health: “I’ve always been able to balance my checkbook without any problems, but lately I’m very confused.”

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