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It’s a big responsibility to care for elderly parents.
Towards the end of life, major medical decisions appear, making finding the right doctor an overwhelming task.
If you have a parent who’s been diagnosed with a disease such as Alzheimer’s, for example, setting up a treatment plan can be stressful.
Here are some great leads for finding the right care for your parents.
1. Not Just A Primary Care Physician
Once you reach 65 years of age, you should be looking for a primary care provider who specializes as a geriatrician.
This physician will be board-certified to care for older patients—but most importantly, this physician’s specialization will be treating the complex medical needs that come with aging.
2. The Age Of Your Doctor Matters
When looking for a geriatrician, try to find out how old he or she is. The search results should respond with a short biography.
You’ll be able to see how long that physician has been in practice, and this is important, but not for the reason you might think.
Though experienced doctors are prefered, you don’t want to set up care with a doctor who’s close to retirement.
The younger the doctor, the more assurance you have that you won’t have to switch unexpectedly.
Let’s talk about health insurance.
3. Start By Understanding Your Health Insurance
If your parents have Medicare, the perfect place to start is the search engine on Medicare.gov. It will list every PCP in your area.
You can narrow down your search by entering “geriatrician” in the advanced search.
If you have an elderly parent suffering from a specific disease or condition, you can type that in the search as well and it will reveal the PCPs who specialize in it.
If you have healthcare other than Medicaid, there will always be a website or hotline where you can find a list of PCPs.
4. Try To Get A Referral
If you can get a referral, your chances of being matched to a great doctor are high—especially if that referral is coming from an individual or an organization who knows your medical needs and with whom you have already built trust.
Sometimes referrals can take a bit of time, but follow it through. There are also personal referrals…
5. Talk To Your Family And Friends
If you don’t have a trusted person or organization writing a referral for you, search within your community.
Ask your friends who also care for elderly parents; they might be really content with the doctor they’ve found.
Ask the senior community surrounding your parents for suggestions, too.
If you have a parent refusing care, hearing about the great care one of their neighbors is receiving might motivate them.
6. Ask Your Pharmacist!
Ever thought of asking your pharmacist? This may be an odd suggestion, but your pharmacist is your health partner.
They know which doctors will prescribe the most medications and which doctors will take alternative routes.
They’ve seen dozens of names attached to prescriptions, so they’ll have good insight, not to mention lots of face time with satisfied and dissatisfied patients.
There’s another call you’ll need to make…
7. Ask Your Previous Provider
You might be switching your mom or dad’s physician now because they’re getting older and in need of a doctor who specializes in things they’re at risk for, or their physician might be leaving suddenly and transferring his or her patients.
Before they go, ask them who they recommend for care. They’ll be obligated to lead you in the right direction.
8. Consult An Advocacy Group
If your father or mother has been diagnosed with a medical condition such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, a great place to turn for advice on a physician would be their advocacy group.
Even if they aren’t yet active, an advocacy group will have all the information they need.
There will also be plenty of testimonies of how other patients have been cared for and who they’ve seen success with.
Let’s talk location…
9. Location Is Important
If everything seems to be a good fit, make sure you check the location of the physician.
They may be a great choice, but if they’re 30–45 minutes from home, that could become problematic.
You might share responsibility with a caregiver one day, and that caregiver will have to make those drives.
10. Look For A Good Record
Don’t just analyze the physicians you’re considering, research the practice or network that those physicians are affiliated with.
Review their standards and look for records of positive patient outcomes.
Standards of excellence are important and include things like board certifications and being considered as leading medical associations.
Here’s one thing that will contribute to that excellence…
11. Friendliness Of Staff
There’s no harm in visiting the clinics or hospitals you’re considering. First impressions are everything.
How is the environment? How are you greeted? Will your elderly parents feel comfortable there? Is the staff friendly?
All you have to do is tell them you’re checking the place out as a prospective patient and they’ll probably even offer a miniature tour.
12. You Don’t Want A Doctor Who Will Push Work Off On A PA
If it’s just a general checkup, sometimes the physician’s assistant will handle it when the doctor is bogged down with work.
Some institutions lean more on their assistants than others.
If you want more face time with your doctor, you’ll have to make sure you communicate that when you’re inquiring care.
Let’s talk about alternative medicine…
13. Alternative Medicine
If you have a parent who’s been diagnosed with a heart condition or disease and they’ve expressed a desire for a more naturopathic treatment plan, that will greatly affect your search for a physician.
There are doctors more open to providing alternative treatments for their patients, but you’ll have to do research to find them.
14. Think About Setting Up An Interview
Once you have your list of names compiled, consider setting up interviews either on the phone or in person.
There might be a co-pay charge, but it’s most likely going to be free.
If you have a few doctors in mind, a couple simple questions will set them apart.
Ease of conversation will be a sign of great doctor-patient relationship potential. Personality is important as well.
15. A Recap For Your Notes
Grab a notebook nearby so you can make sure you’ve got your check list in place to make these calls.
- Make sure your primary care physician is a geriatrician.
- Make sure your PCP isn’t close to retiring.
- Get a list of PCPs from your health care.
- See if you can get a referral.
- Talk to your friends and family.
- Ask your pharmacist.
- Ask your previous provider.
- Consult an advocacy group.
- Remember that location matters.
- Look for a good record.
- Pay attention to the friendliness of the staff.
- Make sure you’ll be seeing your doctor more than their PA.
- If you want alternative treatment plans, adjust your search accordingly.
- Set up an interview.
Good luck with your search!