Doctors for Seniors: How to Spend Less Time in the Waiting Room

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It’s 3 P.M. and you’ve been waiting in the doctor’s office for over an hour. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, either: you often find yourself waiting for lengthy periods with every visit. To make matters worse, you have the same problem with most of your doctors — maybe even your geriatrician.

Sadly, time spent in physician waiting rooms is not only an issue for older adults – almost all age groups face longer waits at the doctor’s office these days. However, it can be particularly aggravating for the 60+ crowd, who may find they see doctors more frequently than they used to.

Today’s older adults are busier and more active than ever before and shouldn’t be forced to sit around idly for hours.1 If you see a lot of doctors for seniors and are tired of long waits, here are some great tips on how to get in and out of the office quickly!

Timing is everything

Timing your appointment can make a big difference in when you’re seen at a doctor’s office. Try to nab the first appointment of the day, or the first one after lunch. Things tend to get backed up at the doctor’s as the day goes on. If you need to reschedule, do so as soon as possible. A good home health aide can remind you of your appointments and confirm any changes.

Late? Not so great

In addition to causing problems for the doctor and staff, being late reduces the likelihood you’ll be seen on time for your appointment. Be sure to take into account things like traffic, parking, and walking to and from the office (if you have issues with ambulation, or use an assistive device). If you have a home health aide, they may be able to use their car or yours to make transportation easier.

Give them a ring

Give your doctor a ring – on the phone, that is. If you’re on your way there and have a cell phone handy (or your aide does), call ahead to see if the doctor is running behind. You may be able to run an errand or two when you’d ordinarily be twiddling your thumbs in an uncomfortable chair!

Make your presence known

Many times, patients or their aides forget to announce them when they arrive at the doctor’s office. Most doctors have patients sign in at the front desk, but it never hurts to smile and greet the receptionist as well, stating your name and the time of your appointment. And as long as you’re polite about it, there’s nothing wrong with asking how much longer it will be if you’ve been waiting awhile.

Follow the Girl/Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared”

If any paperwork can be completed at home and faxed, e-mailed, or snail-mailed to the doctor’s office, this can cut down on your waiting time significantly. If you have trouble with writing or seeing small print, dictate the form’s answers to your aide and have him or her send them in.

Change your doctor

As much as people hate change, sometimes, switching doctors can be a good thing. If you go to one who consistently makes you wait for long periods before being seen, ask your home health agency about alternatives. They may be able to recommend a knowledgeable and skilled physician who cares about how patients spend their time.

Doctors for seniors will always have waiting room issues

Unfortunately, when it comes to doctors for seniors, overly long waiting times probably won’t disappear completely.2 Emergencies, faulty scheduling, and lateness will continue to plague private medical practice. However, it’s important to find a provider who values your time as much as you value theirs. Practicing the tips above can go a long way in working with that special practitioner once you’ve found them!

If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. “More senior citizens are pushing the limits by staying active,” August 27, 2010, http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2010/08/more_senior_citizens_are_pushi.html
  2. “The Health Care Waiting Game,” July 5, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/sunday-review/long-waits-for-doctors-appointments-have-become-the-norm.html?_r=0
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