Q: I postponed my last doctor’s visit because of COVID. I know I need to go but I am so anxious about it. Do you have any tips on how to handle the appointment?

A: Anxiety over a doctor’s visit is very common and understandable. A visit to your doctor often triggers fears in us of the unknown, of possible bad news, and a new diagnosis. However, on the other side of things, doctor’s visits are meant to keep you healthy and help prevent chronic conditions.

Doctors’ offices have very clear safety protocols in place to ensure that you will not be exposed to COVID during your visit. There is usually a pre-visit screening process. Call your doctors office and ask about their procedures so that you can feel assured about the safety measures.

When the pandemic hit, many of us postponed or canceled regular wellness visits. These types of appointments felt unnecessary and to full of risks of exposure. A recent study indicated that at least 20 percent of adults delayed or canceled medical care due to the COVID pandemic.

Now that you have waited so long the worries associated with going to the doctor are probably augmented. The first thing to do is to acknowledge your fears and let them go. Remind yourself that it is normal and does not mean they are based on your current health status. Reframe the visit by viewing your doctor as your partner in a healthy life.

Worries about going to the doctor tend to increase as we age. The usual aches and pains suddenly trigger a concern over something more serious. This is all the more reason why staying on top of routine and preventative healthcare visits is so important. There is often much the doctor can recommend to help ease your symptoms or increase your overall health.

Schedule your visit at a time of day when you feel the best. Make a plan that after your visit you will reward yourself by doing something fun, such as meeting friends, enjoying a nice walk or treat. This will give you something to look forward to in your day.

On the day of your appointment find a way to distract yourself from your worries by watching a nice TV show or reading a good book. You may want to bring a book or headphones to listen to music while in the waiting room. Consider asking a friend to drive you to the appointment to support you.

Write down a list of your questions and concerns for the doctor ahead of time and bring it with you. When we are feeling anxious, we often forget to ask all the important questions. When you start the appointment tell the doctor you have been feeling anxious about the visit and would like to refer to your list of questions. Make sure to have a pen with you to write down the answers.

The first thing they usually do in a visit is to take your vitals, including your blood pressure. Let the nurse know you are feeling anxious and ask if it is possible for them to take it after the visit when you may be feeling calmer.

Hopefully when your visit is done your will feel calmer and accomplished. You can commend yourself for taking an important step in a healthy lifestyle. No matter what is discussed at the appointment you can only address and treat what is first uncovered. Know that you are doing the most important thing for your physical health and longevity by taking this step to assess and understand your healthcare needs.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org

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