Take control of your condition by being an active participant in your healthcare

By Karen Hales, Neurology Solutions Contributing Writer

Receiving or awaiting a diagnosis of a potentially debilitating movement disorder can bring about a sense of unease and uncertainty. Many patients may become overwhelmed and feel they have lost control over their life. Some may want to ignore their diagnosis and put off seeking care.

Neurological disorders such as ataxia, dystonia, Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis bring with them a host of potential symptoms affecting movement, daily activities and mental status, and no two cases are the same. One way to feel more in control is to become informed about your disease and to take an active role in your healthcare, which includes preparing for your neurologist visit.

Preparing for Your Neurologist Appointment

Choosing a specialist to supervise your overall healthcare is essential. An open relationship with your physician can be a powerful factor in maintaining your physical and emotional well-being for the long term. This article is to assist you in having productive appointments with your neurologist to make sure your questions are answered and you can feel and function better despite your condition.

Your Visit

New patients of Neurology Solutions Movement Disorders Center will be asked to complete a medical intake questionnaire, which is available to download in advance. The questionnaire will ask for details on your health history, the condition you are being referred for, and any other conditions for which you are being treated. New patient consults are approximately 45-60 minutes and will include a thorough neurological exam. Follow up exams will take approximately 30-45 minutes. Parkinson patients are seen again in three to six months. Call Neurology Solutions at 512-865-6310 to make an appointment.

Your Role

Only you know what is going on in your body on a day-to-day basis. Some things may be minor and some may progress over time. Your role is to provide your doctor information about your health, health history, medications and symptoms, and to report any specific changes in your condition since your last medical appointment.

Before Your Appointment

  • Prepare to arrive a little early for your scheduled appointment to provide time to fill out any necessary paperwork and so you can gather your thoughts before you meet with the doctor.
  • Bring the name and address of your primary care physician so he can receive a copy of the medical report following your visit. Have your insurance card and doctor’s referral form with you. Bring a record of medical test results and reports related to the condition.
  • Have a list of all medications and dosages, including supplements, you are taking, as some medications can interact poorly with others.
  • Since some conditions may have a genetic component, find out your family medical history specifically related to walking or coordination problems of family members, including grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins.
  • Keeping a log or journal of your symptoms to refer to is a helpful tool in tracking your condition’s progression and to better determine what treatments or medications are working.
  • Be specific in describing your symptoms and how they affect your daily living activities, including estimated periods of time when the symptoms became apparent or worsening. Select the top three symptoms or problems that are most severe to discuss during your appointment.
  • Be prepared to answer: What other medical conditions do you have? Have you had an adverse reaction to any medications? How and when did symptoms of your condition come on? How have your symptoms changed since that time? What activities does your condition make difficult to do? What makes your symptoms worse? What makes your symptoms better?
  • If you have recently started a new medication or therapy regimen, be prepared to discuss any side effects or results of the treatment. Have a list of three or four key questions you would like to discuss with your neurologist so you don’t leave the appointment with additional worries.
  • If you think you will have difficulty remembering or understanding your doctor’s instructions, bring along a loved one or friend to your appointment to take notes and help ask questions.

Many neurological conditions require lifestyle changes. Many neurological medications are started or changed gradually according to instructions provided during your appointment. Let your neurologist know if you are unclear on the instructions and the information you are given. Often, a nurse or other staff member can spend more time with you if needed.

After Your Appointment

Make appointments for any follow-up tests, therapies or other medical orders immediately. Make sure your primary care physician receives a copy of your neurologist’s report. There may be a list of recommendations to discuss with your doctor.

Begin taking any medication prescriptions immediately, and report any troubling side effects to your neurologist as soon as they appear.

You should be reassessed every six months or with any sudden decline in mobility or change in behavior to best manage your condition. A variety of resources and healthcare organizations are available to help expand your understanding of your condition and provide support and programs to help you stay active and maintain a high quality of life.

To learn more about maximizing your visit with your neurologist, see the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s Checkup Checklist.

Stay informed by frequenting Neurology Solutions’ blog, or join Neurology Solutions Movement Disorders Center’s e-mail list to stay up to date on the latest in treatments, how to manage stress and maintain quality of life while battling illness, and tips for staying healthy.