Something happened in the medical world a number of years ago and while I don’t remember the major circumstances, I can recall that all of a sudden, there was a need for doctors to see more people than ever – resulting in more appointments, and a general overall lessening of the reputed bedside manner.

General practitioners, or the old style family doctor, gave way to primary care doctors, and referrals to specialists began for almost everything. The result is that your “regular” doctor may not know what the specialist prescribed for medication, and he or she may see 400 patients in between your regular visits – it’s possible that he or she may momentarily not recall every detail about you.

Today, many of us who have been going to the same doctor for years, find ourselves with new young doctors, as our old favorite retires. I have always favored the younger experts, believing they would be more up to date on the best, most modern methodology. On the other hand, it’s comforting to see a professional who actually remembers who you are.

More and more, patients have to hold one of the reins and take some responsibility. For most of us older people, we expect to walk in, sit down, and have the doctor tell us how we are doing.

We often expect this, even though we tell them nothing as far as symptoms go. Or we forget to mention that little bump, or the sore place on a leg.

It seems to me, after several trips to hospitals and specialists in the last dozen years, that there are indeed miracles. Cataract surgery is one; another is the magic way worn out body parts can be replaced, like my new heart valve, blood transfusions and all of the wonderful new medicines to make us healthy.

We might feel even better if we’d put aside that hesitation to speak up. They, the medical experts may be miracle workers but they are not mind readers.

Folks in my age bracket, especially the women, were not raised to complain and we traditionally kept everything to ourselves. But this is 2008 and it’s time to take some responsibility for our future health. When you go to the doctor the next time, remember to carry a slip of paper listing the medications you take, the dosage and the strength of the pills. That’s that number followed by mcg or mg or some little initials. Be safe and take the bottles themselves.

Also, and this may be the most important, take a list of questions you have for the doctor. I remember the first time I did this and the surprise my doctor expressed. I wanted to know a variety of unrelated things, and who else better to ask, I thought. Why do toenails get thick? Is my cholesterol too high? What causes me to be shorter now? Am I overweight? Is there something wrong if I take a nap every day?

All these questions (and others) were answered and, yes, I wrote the responses down. And I felt a lot better knowing I was just an ordinary person getting older. Or in the phrase I’ve come to love – it’s consistent with aging. That seems to cover an awful lot more than I ever expected.

But, seriously, do yourself a favor – especially my women friends. The days for being modest at the doctor’s office are long gone. Make a list and take it with you, and then have it in your hand when you follow the nurse down the aisle to the doctor’s office. Speak up. It’s a lot easier than you think and could prolong your life. And stop worrying, there’s nothing the doctors haven’t seen or heard.


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