For Better Medical Care, Bring a Friend

Senior citizens who bring company to their doctor or hospital visits receive better medical care, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Of the 38.6% of elderly patients who brought a companion along on their medical visits, the most common person to bring along was a spouse or an adult child, followed by other relatives and friends and neighbors.

The effects of bringing along a companion are clear and beneficial:

The parts that these companions played varied. Primarily, they aided communication in the visit, with 63.8% of companions filling this role. Of these, 44.1% reported recording physician comments and instructions, 41.5% communicating information related to the patient’s medical conditions to a health professional, 41% asking questions, 29.7% explaining the instructions given by the physician, and 3.3% who translated the English language. Companions filled other roles as well, with 28.4% of all companions present for moral support and to provide company, 16.6% to help schedule appointments, and 8.4% to provide physical assistance.

Additionally, the elderly patients who regularly brought companions were more satisfied with their physicians’ services, including technical skills, information dissemination, and interpersonal skills. If their companions actively assisted with communications, the patients rated their physicians’ informational and interpersonal skills more highly. This trend became stronger in patients who reported themselves to be in worse health.

Not only is an elderly person more likely to feel better during the visit if he or she brings along a supportive person, but it will also lead to better communication with the doctor.

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