How can I find a good doctor for my elderly loved one?

Taking the time to research different doctors can be helpful with finding a provider for your elderly loved one. Getting recommendations from friends and family and finding out who they currently use can be a great resource of information. In the end elderly loved ones need to feel that they are receiving good care.  
Cindy Keith
Geriatrics Nursing

If you suspect your elderly loved one may be having problems with memory, it's very important to have them evaluated sooner rather than later. There are many, many things that will mimic symptoms of Alzheimer's that could be treated, so don't let the fear of that diagnosis keep you and your loved one away from the doctor. I suggest either a neurologist or a geriatrician, if there is one near you, for a dementia work-up. You would need to have durable healthcare power of attorney so you can legally speak to the doctor about your parent, and they can relay information to you. If there are memory issues, then it's crucial that the doctor does not speak "over" the elder as if they are not there, or they don't feel the concerns warrant investigation. If the friends and family are seeing troublesome changes, then someone needs to accompany that elder to a physician who will do a proper dementia work-up. 

Finding a good doctor for your elderly loved one is just as important as having a good doctor for yourself. Think about what's important to you and what you like about your doctor. Then apply it to your search for mom or dad's doctor.

There is a specialty of medicine called geriatrics and there are some physicians who are called geriatricians. Though they are usually primary care physicians (internal medicine or family practice), these doctors have pursued additional training in the care and treatment of elderly patients. Obviously the aging of America has created a lot more patients in the healthcare system and so you will likely see more geriatric specialists as time passes. However, it may not be necessary for your elderly family member to see a geriatrician for primary care.

The doctor-patient relationship is just as important as the doctor’s specialty. If your elderly loved one has a comfortable rapport with a family practice doctor than by all means, encourage your loved one to continue seeing that doctor. If you are looking for a new doctor for your family member, don’t rule out family practice doctors as well as doctors of internal medicine. Focus more on the criteria that are important to your loved one, whatever they may be, and evaluate whether the physician offers those.

Many times, and this has happened with my elderly loved ones, they continue to see physicians who you think are not up-to-speed or are not solid doctors, maybe they just don't seem to care. That's a difficult situation. Focus on good communication all around--with your loved one, with their physician, and you can't go wrong.

Shelley Webb
Finding a good doctor for an elderly loved one can be a challenge. Many rural areas and smaller towns do not have gerontologists available. This means that a family will need to look at the non-specialists available in their area to provide medical care for their loved one.

Look for a family practitioner or general practice doctor to be the primary care doctor for your loved one. General and family practitioners are trained to treat all aspects of a person's health and well-being even though they have not specialized in a specific field. They treat the elderly as well as newborns, children and adults for everything from a splinter to a more serious illness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.