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Take a Loved One for a Checkup

Doctor Talking to Patient and Her Friend

The third Tuesday of every September is Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day. It’s a reminder to help a friend, neighbor, or family member visit a health care professional.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, many people wait until they have an emergency before going to the doctor. But regular visits to a medical professional can help recognize symptoms of diseases, prevent them from occurring, or catch them early when they’re easier to treat.

If you know someone you think could benefit from a medical visit, or you are already a caregiver for someone else, ask if they’d like you to go with them to their appointment. Maybe you know someone who has been avoiding a visit and just needs help getting there or making the decision to go. Then follow our tips to be as helpful as possible:

Before the visit

  • Help your friend or family member write down a list of questions to ask the doctor or nurse.
  • Gather their health history information, including current conditions and past surgeries or illnesses.
  • Gather their family’s health history information, including health conditions of their parents, brothers, and sisters.
  • Help them make a list of all the medicines they take, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and vitamins.
  • Update your calendar and bring it to the appointment so you will be prepared to schedule a follow-up visit.

During the visit

  • Introduce yourself to the doctor or nurse and explain why you are there. Understand if the doctor asks to speak to your friend or family member in private during parts of the visit.
  • Help your friend or family member go over the list of questions with the doctor or nurse, starting with the most important ones.
  • Listen carefully to the answers and take notes. If you don’t understand something, ask to have it explained until you do understand.
  • Help your friend or family member explain their symptoms, health history, and any problems with medicines taken in the past.
  • Ask follow-up questions during the visit. For example, if medicines are prescribed, ask about the possible side effects. If a test is ordered, ask what it’s for and what the results will tell you. If a specific treatment is recommended, ask if there are any other options to treat the condition and what might be expected from each.
  • Tell the doctor or nurse if you have concerns about your friend or family member’s ability to follow the treatment plan.
  • Ask the doctor or nurse if and when another visit should be scheduled.

After the visit

  • Discuss the visit with your friend or family member. If you forget or don’t agree on something, call the doctor’s office and ask.
  • Ask your friend or family member if they need help filling prescriptions or making appointments for tests, lab work, or follow-up visits.
  • Call the doctor if your friend or family member has side effects from medications; if their symptoms get worse; or if they start taking any new medications, including prescriptions from another doctor, over-the-counter drugs, supplements, or vitamins.
  • Remind your friend or family member to call the doctor to get the results of any tests they’ve had or to ask about test results they don’t understand.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.