4. Accompanying the person to the GP surgery
Some people with dementia like having someone attend GP appointments with them. The person who goes with them can offer reassurance and may be able to help describe symptoms or any problems the person is having. They can also make a note of what was said, if necessary. The person with dementia may find it reassuring to have someone with them if they need to have any investigations or tests (eg blood pressure, blood test, urine sample). It may also be helpful for the GP if you can help explain things when the person is unable to remember or cannot speak for themselves.
Tips for carers
If the person wants you to go with them to the doctor or nurse appointment, the following tips may be useful.
- Before going to the surgery, write down all the points you would both like to discuss with the GP. It can be difficult to remember everything you want to say during a consultation.
- It may help to write down all recent changes or concerns as a list on a small card (eg a postcard or record card). This is helpful as the GP can type straight from this onto their notes, which can leave more time to discuss how they can help the person.
- Ask for a longer appointment with the GP or nurse.
- Make a note of anything important the doctor says. For example, you might want to write down any medical terms that are used.
- If there is anything you do not understand, ask the doctor to explain in simpler language.
- If the person comes from a different background or culture from the GP, mention any relevant customs, attitudes or beliefs. This can help the GP to decide on appropriate treatment and services.
- If English is not the person's first language, they have a right to ask for a translator when they see their GP.
- The conversation should always involve the person with dementia. It is important not to talk to the doctor over the person's head as though they weren't there. If you feel you need to talk to the doctor on your own, make a separate appointment.
- Ask for the GP to make a note of you as the main carer, and to copy you into any important information (eg dates and times of appointments), if appropriate.
- At the end of the appointment, offer to leave the room so that the person with dementia can speak with the doctor alone.
- Keep a record of communication with the GP. This can be useful for showing other health professionals.