Ask The Nurse – Edition 1

Ask the nurse is a new monthly column featuring nurse Susan Langdon.   Susan is a nurse with Stepping Stone Adult Day Health. She will be at Openhouse on Friday afternoons starting March 6th for free health & wellness consultations from 2-4PM. Please call 415-347-8509 to schedule an appointment.  

Q: How do I pick a doctor in my health plan that I can trust and is responsive to my needs?
A: It is important that your doctor or health care provider is comfortable with your sexual orientation and understands some of the unique health related issues of LGBT individuals. And for trans people it is even more crucial that your doctor is attuned to your needs. If you already have a doctor you have a relationship with but with whom you have not disclosed your sexual/gender identity you should consider having that discussion soon.

It is worth the time finding a doctor you can trust and establishing a relationship. You can ask friends for recommendations or you can look at your health plan’s website for profiles that match your medical needs. If you are not satisfied with the first doctor you select continue your search. Over time with routine and preventive health visits you will be building a relationship with your doctor, such that if you need to see a specialist or have a more serious medical event your doctor will be someone you can trust to guide and coordinate your care and help you make the choices that are best for you. In San Francisco we are fortunate to have a choice of many health care providers who, if not LGBT themselves, treat all their patients with respect and compassion.

Q: How often should I visit my doctor?
A: Generally healthy seniors should minimally have a routine check up yearly. After 70 or if you have a chronic medical conditions you should discuss frequency of visits with your doctor. The old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is a valid one. And of course if you notice a sudden or otherwise worrisome change in your condition you should call or make an appt to see your doctor.

Q: How can I get the most out of my doctor’s visit? I often feel she is rushed and I don’t always leave with the information I wanted.
A: Write a list of questions out beforehand.

1. If you are having symptoms write down some information to help your doctor. For example: What is the symptom. When did it start? At what time of day? How long does it last? What makes it better or worse? Does if interfere with your usual activities?   Symptoms could include anything: dizzy spells, periods of confusion, pain, rash, vision or hearing problems, difficulty breathing, etc.

2. Bring a list of all the medications and other supplements you are taking including non-prescription meds, herbs, laxatives, tropical ointments and creams. Have the dosage and frequency you are taking these meds and substances. Report any side effects. If you are getting prescription medications from any other providers be sure to include that on your list. If you have stopped taking a prescribed med or not taking it according to the instructions be sure to report that also. Medications and other supplements could potentially have serious interactions so it is extremely important for your doctor and pharmacist to know what you are taking. Also if you change a dose or frequency of a medication your doctor prescribed and don’t report that your doctor might alter a prescription based on what was ordered instead of what you are taking.

3. Report if you have seen any other providers since your last visit with your doctor or primary care provider. Include: date, location, reason and outcome.

4. Many things can affect your health. Report any new significant life changes. These could include: housing problems, death of a loved one, inability to negotiate stairs, etc.

5. If possible bring a companion with you who can help you to give and get the information you need to best communicate with your doctor in the most efficient manner.

You can ask your healthcare questions in future “Ask The Nurse” monthly columns by emailing Fairley Parson (Please include “Ask the Nurse” in the email subject line).

You can also send your questions, via U.S. postal service, to:
Openhouse
Attn. Ask the Nurse
1800 Market St., PMB 93
San Francisco, CA  94102

Questions may be edited for clarity and length. We cannot guarantee publication of all submissions.

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