Choose a Physician for Elderly Care

Edited by Sobi, Grimm, Anonymous

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How to Choose a Physician for Elderly Care

Are you searching for a doctor for yourself or an elderly loved one? It can be a daunting venture. Knowing what you are looking for gives you a leg up in the search. There are many things to consider for your search and selection to be successful.

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The search for a physician is an individual one, as each person has their own unique set of needs, yet there are basic things that most people look for, including a convenient location, availability especially when you are sick, the ability to accept new patients and of course your insurance coverage.

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Understanding Different Elderly Care Physicians

There are a variety of physicians with different types of medical degrees.

  • Geriatricians are doctors who have completed residency in either Internal Medicine or Family Medicine and additional one or two years in the care of the elderly. They specialize in care of people over the age of 65.
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  • Internal Medicine doctors have three or more years of additional training in learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. They are also trained in primary care medicine.
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  • Primary Care Physicians or Family Practice Physicians are the doctors that are seen initially and most frequently for health care needs. They initiate referrals to specialists, and advocate for you within the health care arena. They also provide, to name a few, health prevention, health maintenance, counseling, diagnoses and treatment. They can treat all ages of patients.
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Considerations to Make When Selecting a Physician

The relationship you or your loved one has with the physician is as important as the type of specialty they have.

Make a list of the physicians you are interested in. You can search online, talk with your insurance company and also call the physicians' offices and ask questions to learn more about them.

  1. 1
    Office Location:
    Is their office conveniently located and easily accessible? Determining how far you or your loved one is comfortable traveling to see your physician is important. When distance and accessibility become a factor, people tend not to venture out when they are ill and may miss an important appointment or neglect going to the doctor, which can lead to poor health outcomes.
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  2. 2
    Appointments:
    You should know how long it will take to reach an appointment, and approximately how long appointments will last. Ask if lab work and x-rays are done in the office. Also inquire about the office's cancellation policy.
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  3. 3
    Language:
    Is it important to you that your physician speaks your primary language? Fluency in any language helps to prevent misunderstandings, and some people are more comfortable with people who speak their native language.File:Thank you note for every language.jpg
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  4. 4
    Age and Gender:
    Some people prefer the same gender physicians. Likewise, a young recently graduate physician is usually up to date on all the new therapies and standards of care, whereas an older physician has years of experience to offer.
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  5. 5
    Doctor Education:
    There are many fine medical schools. Some have prestigious names, where others are state universities. Does it matter to you where your doctor went to medical school? Does the physician have experience treating any medical conditions that you have? These are important considerations.
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  6. 6
    Specialized Practice:
    Are you in need of a specialist? Some specialties include cardiac, renal, or gastrointestinal, but there are many other specialties. Does your insurance require a referral for you to see a specialist?
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  7. 7
    Availability:
    Knowing the hours the office is open helps you with scheduling appointments. Knowing if you can be seen the same day, or after hours is also reassuring. Be sure to ask if there are other physicians in the practice for coverage when your chosen physician is unavailable.
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  8. 8
    Accepting New Patients:
    When you first call the doctor's office, it is important to ask if they are accepting new patients. They may be accepting new patients, but perhaps not from your insurance. Because of this it is always important to verify before deciding to use a particular physician and making the trip there.
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  9. 9
    Insurance:
    Depending on your insurance, you may be required to choose from their list of physicians. You must ask if they accept your insurance, even if they are on your insurance list. You must also be sure to again verify that they accept your insurance before your first appointment.
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The Average Time Spent in a Doctor's Office is 10 Minutes

It is imperative to make the most of your appointment time.

Here are a few tips for doing that:

  • State your health history and why you are there for that visit. Be factual about your symptoms, concerns and health. For some, having a list or notes to convey to the doctor can help ensure nothing is forgotten. Have a list of all medications; supplements and any special diets you take that can be shown to your physician.
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  • Tell your doctor what you think is wrong. This allows the doctor to alleviate your fears or instruct on diagnoses or treatment, discuss tests, or make referrals. Do not hesitate to tell the physician what your expectations are regarding your care.
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  • Take notes during your visit and ask questions. Be sure you understand your diagnoses, medications and medical tests. If you do not, then ask the doctor to explain in a different way so that you do understand.
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  • Ask about medications you currently are on and any changes the doctor makes. Ask about side effects and drug-to-drug interactions. If the doctor refers you for tests, ask what they are for, what the doctor is looking for and when and how you will get the results.
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  • Involve family or a close friend in your care and ask them to accompany you to your doctor's visits. Many elderly patients have chronic health conditions and may have memory or hearing deficits. Miscommunication may cause unnecessary problems. Having a trusted advocate who will speak up, ask questions and take notes can be an asset for care.
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After Your First Physicians Visit

If you answer "No" to the following questions, it may be in your best interest to keep looking for a new physician.

  • Did you feel comfortable with the physician and the staff? If you are not comfortable with the physician or the staff, you may be reserved in discussing or asking about your personal health issues.
  • Do you feel they listened to you? If you feel your questions weren't being answered there is a communication problem. When someone continually interrupts you that is a sign they are not listening to what you have to say. Your concerns should be validated.
  • Did they spend adequate time with you? You should never leave an appointment feeling rushed. If you sat in the waiting room an hour past your scheduled time that shows your time is not important.
  • Were you able to ask questions? You need to have your questions and concerns addressed. You need to be able to understand what the doctor's response means. Otherwise you will not be informed about your care.

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Recent edits by: Grimm, Sobi

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