Health Tips

Physicians: Choosing One for Aging Loved Ones

If you are the caregiver for an elderly adult, you may find yourself needing to find a physician for your elder. The Complete Guide to Caring for Aging Loved Ones gives the following guidelines in choosing a physician for an aging adult. Begin by contacting organizations dedicated to the elderly, such as Area Agency on Aging, in your area. Ask other people who are caring for elderly adults who they would recommend.

Ask your own doctor if they are familiar with the geriatric specialists in your area. Once you have potential doctors in mind, choose one who has the following characteristics. Geriatric Experience Ideally, the primary physician will be a geriatric specialist. Or try to find an internist, general practitioner or family practitioner with geriatric experience. The illnesses of the elderly are often complex and unique, so having a doctor who can easily spot these conditions may save your loved one from going to specialists.

Physicians with geriatric experience are also more likely to distinguish disease symptoms from signs of the normal aging process. In addition, find a doctor who is willing to work with specialists, is open to second or third opinions, is liked by both you and your loved one, and is one who treats you both with respect. Bedside Manner Look for a physician who is patient, thorough and compassionate towards your elderly parent. Make sure to find someone who communicates well, listens to your concerns, emphasizes healthy lifestyle changes to prevent future health problems, presents a range of treatment options with their risks and benefits, explains test purposes, and schedules regular checkups and follow-up visits. Team Mentality Work on building mutual trust and respect between you and the doctor.

Keep in mind that the doctor will have a busy schedule, so try to make the most of your appointments. Know what questions you want to ask ahead of time, and take notes if needed. Don’t be afraid to discuss with the doctor a treatment that hasn’t been working and the possible new treatments. Insurance Coverage Contact Medicare to receive their handbook on benefit coverage, so that you are informed on the insurance process. And check that your doctor’s practice accepts Medicare or other insurance your loved one may have. You may even want to find out how the office bills its patients. Find out which hospital they are affiliated with and if they take care of their patients in the hospital. Technical Skills If you are trying to find a surgeon, look for one who is known for good technical skill. Ask your primary physician who they would recommend. And contact The American College of Surgeons to find out more about the potential surgeon’s reputation. Doctor’s Team Discuss with your potential doctor who the other allied health professionals are in the office and what role they play. When Your Parent Already Has a Physician If your parent already has an existing, trusting relationship with a physician, that can be the first step in giving you peace of mind. Not that this should give you blind faith.

So as you go with your parent to checkups, build a rapport with the doctor and don’t be afraid to ask questions about treatments or even ask for a second opinion. Also, if your loved one is seeing more than one doctor, make sure the physicians all have a full list of medications prescribed by all doctors to prevent drug interactions. It is also important to fill all of these prescriptions at the same pharmacy so the pharmacist will also be able to watch for interactions. Concluding Thoughts While finding the right physicians for your aging parents can be a time-intensive process, working together with your parents will help you find medical professionals who will give your parents the care and respect they need.

Medical information within this site is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of any health condition. Please consult a licensed health care professional for the treatment or diagnosis of any medical condition.

This article was based on information from The Complete Guide to Caring for Aging Loved Ones by Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council.

© 2006 iMom.

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