When we’re younger (and hopefully, healthier), it can be difficult enough to decide between doctors. However, as we grow older, the stakes get higher. We may no longer have the time and physical abilities to heal like we used to, so getting treatment from the appropriate medical professionals becomes even more crucial. But how do you choose the right geriatric doctor for yourself or the older adult in your life?
Stick with one medical practice
As the years march on, we are likely to find ourselves in need of not just one, but several physicians to help us navigate the murky waters of aging. Sticking with one medical practice (if you’re able) can go a long way in getting the right doctor for your needs, and in reducing communication confusion among different doctors. Try looking for doctors that are associated with the same hospital or health care system. Bonus: if you find a practice that’s part of your insurance’s in-network coverage, it can help reduce healthcare costs as well.
Get a doctor who willingly shares information
Unfortunately, even if you have doctors in the same medical group, it’s unwise to assume they’re sharing information with each other. Although you’d think this would be an obvious way to provide quality patient care, the truth is that it’s not done routinely.
That’s why it’s so important to get a doctor who is at least willing to share information with the rest of your healthcare team – even if they have to be reminded. The first step is to keep your own records on your health, or that of your loved one. These records may include a list of all your doctors, medications, and pertinent phone numbers (like your pharmacy). Give a copy of the list (updated as often as necessary) to your doctor or their office staff.
The second step is to take notes at medical appointments and keep them all in one place. This way, there is comprehensive documentation of you or your loved one’s healthcare that is easy to read and access. The idea behind these steps is to make physician communication with other healthcare professionals easier – and hopefully more frequent.
Don’t be afraid to switch doctors
Many patients are reluctant to switch doctors because they’ve been with their present ones for years – or even decades. You or your loved one may have developed a familiarity with this professional, or even a comradery. However, this does not necessarily mean they are the best physician to help you in the long run, or that they’re even the right geriatric doctor for your needs.
As such, don’t be afraid to switch doctors if you feel this is the case. You can explain your reasoning to them if it makes you feel better, but know that you are not obligated to do so. And needless to say, find another doctor if your current one is brusque, rude, incompetent, or simply a bad communicator. These issues are unlikely to go away with time, and can make getting healthcare stressful at best and impossible at worst.
The real secret to getting a great geriatric doctor
The above tips are helpful when trying to find the best physician for you or your loved one’s needs. But do you want to know the real secret to getting a great geriatric doctor? It’s finding one you can work with, and who cares about the well-being of their patients.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But a doctor who views a patient as more than just a number, or a name scribbled on a pad, is likely to provide the kind of outstanding care that others won’t. Don’t sell yourself or your loved one short – purposely seek out this type of professional, and don’t stop until you’ve found him or her. And now that you know the “secret” to getting a good doctor, spread it around so others can benefit too!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.