Stop Missing Appointments!

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I think my dentist is on to me.  Over the past year I have noticed an increase in their efforts to remind me of my appointments.

In the good old days I would get a postcard two weeks before the appointment reminding me of the day and time.  I really appreciated this as most of my dentist appointments were made six months out when I actually had no idea of what I would be doing at that time.  Next came the reminder phone calls about two days before. More recently this has progressed to also include several email messages and a text that asks me to hit reply to confirm I will be there.

All good as far as I am concerned and having a business myself that struggles to find ways to remind clients of appointments, I have to appreciate their persistence.  Which got me thinking about all the other polite, conscientious people out there who would never purposefully miss an appointment (in other words most people I know with ADHD)…only to read a text or pick up a ringing phone to hear that they are an hour late to their 2 o’clock dental cleaning.

So if you, like other people with ADHD, find you are nervous to show your face at your dentist or doctor’s office, in case you might have been put on their “naughty list” and charged “missed” fees for all those forgotten appointments, here are a few hints to help you make, remember and actually get to your appointments.

Why is it so hard to keep appointments?

The thing is, making and actually getting to appointments tops the list of challenges for many people with ADHD.  In fact, it ranks right up there with such ADHD challenges as procrastination, staying organized and handling paperwork.

Hallmark challenges of ADHD are forgetfulness, lack of time awareness, trouble planning and distractibility. Therefore, making appointments and then forgetting to keep them just comes somewhat naturally to someone with ADHD.

More than putting it on the calendar

It would seem that keeping an appointment simply involves making it.  The truth is far from that.  Making and keeping appointments involves a multi-step system that has the potential of breaking down at any point.  Think about it.  The first step is only scheduling the appointment.

Make the appointment and record it in your planning system

Are you still with me?  For many, the appointment is made, but not recorded which lowers the chances of actually getting to the appointment to about 25%.  It is really this missed second step that undermines most people’s chances of ever getting to the appointment. Despite our sincere intent to remember to write it in our planner later by telling ourselves we won’t forget it, innate challenges with memory and ADHD don’t make it easy.

Do this to remember to make them

Get in the habit of recording your appointments when you schedule them.  This could be writing it in your planner or typing it into your smart phone.  Or, create a text or take a picture of the appointment card that the receptionist gives you and send it to yourself.  Also, you might also ask if they can give you a reminder call.  Most places are happy to do that, especially if you have missed one or more appointments in the past. Do not leave the office without doing at least one of these!

If you made and recorded the appointment, congratulations, you now have about a 50/50 chance of showing up at the right day and time.  But because of natural challenges, we may not remember to check our calendar for that appointment. So the next important step is to also set a reminder on the day of the appointment.

Do this to remember to keep them

Set a reminder (preferably several) for the day of the appointment right then. Try using the numerous alarms and timers on your iPhone or watch.  To make this even more effective, try using a unique alarm to remind you of appointments and set it to remind you a week before, day before, day of and one hour before the appointment to go off.   If you want to increase your chances of making that appointment to 75% make use of the vibration alarm as well!

You’re almost there…you have made the appointment, recorded it, set alarms to remind you, but there’s still another step – getting there on time.

Do this to make the appointment in a timely manner

Estimate before hand how long it will take you to get to that appointment.  Factor in such things as getting out of the house, traffic, parking and even slow elevators.  When you have estimated how long it will take, multiply that times two.  Yes, times two.  It is more common to underestimate how long it will take to get somewhere and this way takes out the guesswork.  If you are worried about being bored if you arrive too early, take a book or something else to keep yourself busy.  Or, like I do, sit back and enjoy catching up on all those gossip magazines that you never have time to read!

The idea of making and keeping appointments may seem to be a trivial matter to most people, but for someone with ADHD, it can be a real problem. Missing an appointment can also be the beginning of a downward spiral that eventually leads to chaos, overwhelm and not taking care of ourselves.  It is a solvable problem, however, as long as you put a few habits and systems into place.

What are some of your experiences or best ways to make and keep appointments?  I’d love to hear them.

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