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The Right Doctor for Your Elder

If you have a loved one who is in their 60s or older, you may wonder whether they should be seeing a geriatrician. Geriatricians specialize in caring for people with multiple chronic medical conditions whose physical and mental symptoms make day-to-day living a challenge. However, not all elderly adults deal with these types of issues. When choosing a doctor for your elder, it may not be clear whether they’re in need of a geriatrician or a traditional primary care provider.

Understanding What Geriatricians Do

According to the American Geriatrics Society, about 30% of adults over the age of 65 require a geriatrician. For these individuals, working with someone who specializes in geriatrics can be a huge help.

Geriatricians are more likely to pick up on warning signs other doctors may overlook. They also have a better understanding of how different medications are metabolized in older individuals’ bodies. These specialists are trained to not only consider the medical requirements of each patient, but also their needs as a whole in order to make the best decisions for their overall well-being.

Here are a few signs the right doctor for your elder is a geriatrician:

  • Your loved one is on multiple medications
    A geriatrician can determine which medications will be most beneficial for your loved one. These recommendations can minimize the risk of detrimental side effects of drug-drug interactions.
  • Your loved one is having memory issues
    A geriatrician can take the important step of screening your loved one for a precursor to dementia called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The specialist will also be on the lookout for signs of depression, which are less readily apparent in older adults.
  • Your loved one is struggling with mobility
    As falls are such a dangerous issue for seniors, mobility is a crucial factor in both their health and general well-being. Seeing a geriatrician who can assess your loved one’s balance and prescribe strengthening exercises or physical therapy courses can help your loved one maintain their independence for longer.

Choosing a Doctor for Your Elder

Whether you think your loved one could benefit from meeting with a geriatrician or a primary care physician, the next step is to find the right fit for their needs. These days, there are many ways to “shop” for a doctor.

For a smoother experience, try combining multiple methods to ensure you’re making an appointment with an individual who has a solid record with seniors.

Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Begin with the senior’s health insurance network
    Not all doctors accept Medicare. Start by reviewing your loved one’s insurance network and make a list of in-network physicians who are ready to take on new patients.
  • Ask around
    Have your loved one ask their social circle, church community, or colleagues for recommendations.
  • Check physician review sites
    Checking physician reviews online isn’t quite as reliable as, say, checking online for restaurant reviews. After all, not everyone remembers to review their physician even if they’ve had a great experience. However, completing this step can help you identify and avoid potential red flags.
  • Don’t underestimate location
    Location can be a crucial factor for seniors when it comes to visiting their doctor as often as they should. Finding someone who is close to your loved one’s home and whose office is easy to get to via their preferred method of transportation is key.
  • Try a visiting physician group
    An alternative to a traditional doctor is a visiting physician group or organization, which can make wellness visits much more convenient for your loved one.
  • Consider virtual office visits
    Another convenient alternative to visiting a doctor’s office, virtual office visits connect patients with their physicians via online video chat. If your loved one is hesitant about technology, this may not be the right route for them. However, some seniors love being able to chat directly with their physician without leaving the house.

These suggestions will help you identify a number of doctors in your loved one’s local area who could meet their needs. The final step is to narrow that list down to a single doctor who will establish a trusted relationship with your loved one and help them stay healthy for the long run.

If you're interested in more information about how in-home care can help your senior loved ones, contact your nearest Visiting Angels office today or call 800-365-4189.
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