The main strategy is to be as prepared and organized as possible, and there several ways to do this. If it helps, you can even print this or some other information you find on this topic to help you get organized. One of my most important suggestions here is to not let any professional (medical or otherwise) use professional jargon/Latin/abbreviations/etc without asking for explanation. Hold us accountable, ask for "laymen's terms", have it explained it in a way you best understand. It is so important that we as consumers have information/knowledge/power/respect in these processes. Of course we see professionals with expertise in their fields for their knowledge, but they need to partner WITH us for best outcomes.
Another key point is to ensure that the professional (again, medical or otherwise) includes anyone diagnosed with any cognitive issue (any dementia or whatever diagnosis) as much as is possible/appropriate. I once saw a Dr. with Granny (and he was a geriatrician) and he mainly ignored her and only spoke to me. Please advocate for your loved one/friend/etc to be included, to the degree they are able to participate and potentially benefit (and this may take some trial-and-error to figure out, I struggled with this...).
1 always bring a list of questions/topics to be covered and addressed if you have any (I always get distracted/forget something if I don't have it written prior to the visit) - this is where bringing another person can be helpful since you as the patient are likely more distracted than they are
2 always bring a pen/pencil/paper and your scheduler/appointment book/calendar/whatever you use, to take notes and make any future appointments. Some agencies will print some details of your visit; please keep these documents in an organized place in your home for future reference
3 if it's an initial meet, have all your medical/physical/medication information already together (current diagnoses, all medications/doses/time of day/drug allergies/etc), medical history, including surgeries, current providers (including counselors/therapists/PA/NP/PT/OT - to best coordinate care). Also, update all this for your records and share this with professionals when any of this info changes. If it can be typed beforehand, wonderful. For "tech savvy" folks, I recommend an application for phone or computer called CareZone at https://carezone.com/home (this is the Online link, check your specific phone for app options). For the same info to be at home and available in the event of an acute event for first responders to access, I recommend the "File of Life" that is magnetized for your refrigerator; visit them at http://www.folife.org/ (they have other options such as a wallet version and something to keep in your car).
4 if you take medications, have all the contact info for where your current pharmacy is ++ you can also bring all your meds/supplements/herbal remedies with you if you do not have them recorded
5 bring any advance directives (medical durable POA, health care proxy, MOST form, DNR, etc). Have contact info for anyone you want on HIPAA documents and/or who would be contacted and involved in your care. If you bring originals, they need to COPY them, they may make some new documents for you to sign - ask them exactly what they are and get copies of ANY documents you sign. Please ensure you understand what you are signing, ask them to explain it until it is clear and comfortable for you.
I know this is a lot of information; contact me with questions/clarifications. Although I was pretty organized with all this as a caregiver, it was still a lot for me to manage and understand. As with anything else, please reach out for assistance - maybe someone can type your med list, or a list of providers or history of medical care, etc. I know it can be a challenge to ask for support, but I firmly believe it "takes a village" sometimes to get through some of this life stuff!
~ Take good care, Suzannah