Unfortunately, most of us know far too well what it’s like to spend an afternoon at yet another doctor’s appointment instead of outside enjoying the gorgeous weather, at the library browsing books, or doing pretty much anything else.
But these appointments are critical, even lifesaving. So rather than feeling sorry for ourselves; why not find a way to make the best of it.
Jen Lupo Reese has to take her daughter to Baltimore twice a year to see the neurologist. When the time comes, the family of four plays hooky from work and school to make a day of it. “We go to one of our favorite places, the aquarium,” she says.
If the appointment is long or far away, taking a day off can alleviate some of the added stress of squeezing so much into a short amount of time. Find a museum, a park, or a favorite restaurant nearby and plan ahead. Maybe your appointment coincides with a concert or a ballgame. Some people even opt to get a hotel room and stay overnight in a different city.
BAG OF TRICKS
Seasoned patients know that the waiting room is a great place to catch up on schoolwork or add some new signs to your American Sign Language repertoire. Books, tablets, and smartphones are useful tools of distraction. Keeping a spare charger in that bag is a good idea too.
An old fashioned newspaper serves a dual purpose. An adult can read it and a child can crumple and shred it. The mess is much easier to handle than a fussy toddler.
Bring some toys your child doesn’t get to play with much so they keep his or her attention longer. A new book. A pad to draw or color in. Matchbox cars. Even tossing a small ball back and forth can be a great way to pass time.
For those days and nights when we end up in the ER or find ourselves unprepared for an appointment – think outside the box. Recording some silly videos with your child or letting them take pictures with your smartphone can entertain them for quite a while. There’s nothing wrong with singing songs while you wait for the doctor. And those rubber gloves make amazing balloons!
No one wants hunger to turn to hanger. If you pack snacks – keep in mind potential food allergies of other children. And try to keep it neat. Cheese sticks might be better than Cheerios if your child tends toss them around. Same with drinks, if you have a spiller on your hands, stick to water.
If the waiting room has a no food policy, just talk to the people at the desk, they might make an exception for children. At the very least, they’ll know where to find you when the doctor is ready to see you and you had to step outside.
MIND YOUR GERMS
We all know we should wash our hands during and after our visit to the doctor or hospital. But keep your own germs in check too. Many places will offer a facemask for patients and family members who are or might be sick. Some offer separate waiting rooms. Be respectful of other medically fragile individuals seeking care.
MAKE IT A DATE
Seeing the doctor won’t feel so bad if you find a way to make it special. Go out to a movie after or visit a favorite restaurant. Mom Nickie Brandenburger says, “Usually I schedule the appointments early afternoon so I can pick up my son a little early from school. He likes getting to leave before all the other kids and I usually have a treat waiting for him in the car like a 7-11 slurpee!”
REWARD AND PAMPER
Doctor visits are not easy. Even if they’re routine, the frequency of appointments can wear on your whole family. While it’s our normal, it’s not normal to have to see multiple doctors a year/month/week. So treat yourself, even if it’s in a small way. If you see a therapist every Tuesday – turn it into Takeout Tuesday and take a break from making dinner. If you’re heading for a blood draw after school instead of the playground, hit the ice cream shop afterward for a scoop. My son had a couple of hard weeks of seeing multiple doctors so we picked up ice cream to share with his friends in the neighborhood. He and his brother celebrated the end of a rough stretch of illness with some of their favorite people.
Parents need to take care of themselves as well. We run ourselves ragged juggling everything. Try to build extra time into your day so you can pick up a healthy meal instead of hitting the fast food drive-thru. Go out for a run or a long walk. Vent to a friend who understands what you’re going through. Splurge on a really good cup of coffee instead of that mud they serve in the hospital cafeteria. We’re able to take better care of others when we care for ourselves; but that is easier said than done.