Background Medical Visit Companions (MVCs) are encouraged for older adults' routine medical encounters. Little data exist on the experiences and contributions of non-spouse companions for the growing population of older adults without a living spouse. Methods We conducted six focus groups with forty non-spouse MVCs identified through churches in Baltimore, Maryland. Thematic analysis was used to identify key issues before the visit, during the visit itself, after the visit, and in the overall companion experience. Results MVCs described their experiences positively but also highlighted many challenges related to the role that extended far beyond the visit itself. These included scheduling, transportation, communication, and coordination of care expectations. Conclusion Our increasingly complex healthcare system can be challenging for older adults to navigate successfully. The diverse nature of tasks performed by companions in this study highlight the many benefits of having a companion accompany older patients to medical visits. The positive experience of the companions studied and their willingness to continue their role in the future highlights the untapped potential for increased social facilitation to improve the quality of healthcare visits and achieve patient-centered care for all older patients.