Tips to Help You Find the Right Doctor for your Aging Family Member
April 29, 2019
What do you do if the doctor your aging mom or dad has been seeing for decades decides to retire? Or, your elderly parents move from another state to be closer to you and they need a new doctor? You may think your mom can just see the primary care doctor you’ve had for your family, but that probably isn’t the best decision if your parents are over the age of 65.
- Look for a Geriatrician: Once you reach 65 years of age, most people should find a physician who specializes as a geriatrician. Geriatricians are board-certified to care for older patients and specialize in treating the complex medical needs that come with aging.
- Determine Health Insurance Coverage: You will need to understand what type of insurance coverage your parents have. Depending on the type, the choice of geriatricians may be limited to a pre-determined list. If they are covered under Medicare, the Medicare.gov Physician Compare site can be helpful to search for doctors in your area. Another option is to call 1-800-MEDICARE if you prefer personal help.
- Get a Referral: Many people find that getting a recommendation or referral from someone they trust is the best way to find a good doctor. The National Institutes of Health suggests talking to friends, neighbors and relatives who have a geriatrician they are happy with. You can also ask other health professionals such as your own doctor or pharmacist. If your parent has a specific medical condition, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, you can also check with a local advocacy group for their recommendations.
- Find the Right Location: If possible, try to choose a doctor that is close to where your parent lives, and hopefully not too far away from you, if you are the one driving them. And, if your parent is living in a senior living community, ask the management if geriatricians routinely visit patients at their location as this may be an attractive option.
- Check their Cred: Look for a doctor affiliated with a practice or professional network that requires high standards and a good record of positive patient outcomes, if that data is available. Standards of excellence include board certifications and associations with leading medical associations.
- Do an Interview: Identify a short list of doctors you are considering and make an appointment to talk to them over the phone or in person. This may seem odd, but this is the best way to find the right physician for your parent. Tell them about your parent’s health and ask questions that are important to both of you.