The Importance Of The Doctor/Patient Relationship For Your Aging Parent
One of the little known challenges with aging is that your doctor is also aging. At a certain point, your doctor that you know and trust will retire. Many of my clients encountered that issue and it was extremely hard for them to find the right doctor. If you are caring for an aging parent, at some point, they’ll need to start seeing a new doctor. If they have a chronic health condition, they may have to replace many doctors.
If you are healthy, you may not think it’s a big deal to lose your doctor. However, your aging parent may have been going to the same doctor for years, even decades. They’ve established a relationship and your parent probably trusts their doctor’s judgment. It can be hard to find a new doctor who you connect with, trust me. Before I had a chronic illness, I rarely went to the doctor. It really didn’t matter who my doctor was, since I only saw her once a year (at most) for an allergy medication prescription. Now, I know how important it is to have a team of medical doctors that are right for you since I see them at least once a month.
Finding The Right Doctor For Your Aging Parent
If your aging parent needs to find a new doctor due to retirement or insurance changes, here are some of my tips for finding the right doctor.
Start with the general practitioner.
I can’t express enough how important a good general practitioner is. I LOVE my general practitioner. I trust her judgment and appreciate that she watches out for my overall wellness. That being said, she isn’t for everyone. My husband doesn’t like her as his doctor because she is very direct. He wants a little more of a nurturing bedside manner, while I appreciate a doctor who gives me the information I need without sugar coating it.
Finding a general practitioner whose personality and skill fits your aging parent’s personality is critical. You want to find someone who they can trust and have a good rapport with as it is important that they are honest with their doctor about changes to their health.
Find the right specialist.
This is a bit tougher to do since your choices are limited by insurance and available practitioners. That being said, try to find the best fit for your aging parent within their limitations. They’ll spend a lot of time with their specialist if they have a long-term medical condition. For example, I go to my rheumatologist every three months when I’m not in an active flare and as often as every two weeks when I am struggling. That is a lot of time with a doctor.
In addition to making sure personalities gel, you want a specialist whose medical philosophy you and your aging parent agree with. For example, my first rheumatologist was very science driven and fully relied on medication, not lifestyle changes. I have a very similar mindset so it worked for me at that time. My current rheumatologist is more holistic and open to naturopathic treatments and Eastern medicine. Six years ago, that would have been off-putting to me, but after living with a chronic illness for nine years, I’m much more open to alternative treatments. It is important that your aging parent finds someone who they trust and agree with to ensure that they are following doctor’s orders.
Consider the office staff.
The doctor’s staff is almost as important as the doctor. Do they help schedule/reschedule appointments? Do they assist with insurance issues? Do they assist patients with mobility or cognitive challenges?
Sometimes a great doctor can have terrible staff. For example, my OBGYN is fantastic. I love her. She delivered both of my sons. That being said, her staff is terrible. The nurse has lost blood work on more than one occasion. Since she isn’t my general practitioner, I was willing to overlook the staff issues and stick with her. I would not be able to overlook that with a rheumatology office since I am there so often and have so much more to keep track of (prescriptions, exams, etc.).
The doctor’s support staff is critical to your aging parent’s care. They are the ones who pass on messages, follow up on prescriptions and process results. This isn’t an area to overlook.
Qualities Of A Good Doctor For Your Aging Parent
As someone who spends a lot of time in the doctor’s office, I know a lot about what I think makes a good doctor. Here are some of my favorite doctor qualities:
- This seems like a no brainer, but you’d be amazed by how many times I’ve heard of doctors dismissing patient concerns or pain.
- Up-to-date. There are constantly new treatments or medical findings and it is important that your aging parent’s doctor is up-to-date on what is new with your condition.
- Willing to jump through hoops. If your aging parent has a chronic health issue, they will at some point have a medication or treatment denied by their insurance. It is important that their doctor/medical office will fight back to make sure they get what they need.
- Open to new ideas/treatments. I really appreciate that my rheumatologist is open to various treatments and alternative methods. In fact, many times, she will try things herself before recommending it to patients. Chronic illnesses are complicated and difficult to manage so it is helpful to have doctors who are open to a variety of treatment options.
It is important to have a solid relationship with your doctor. If your aging parent isn’t comfortable with his/her doctor, or you feel that the doctor isn’t treating your parent’s condition properly, it is perfectly OK to switch.