How to Select a Primary Care Doctor for a Senior
If you are trying to help a senior loved one find a new primary care physician, the process might be a little more involved than you’d imagined. A recent medical diagnosis—such as heart disease, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s—can further complicate the search.
Seniors sometimes say their doctors attribute every change in their health to aging. It leaves them feeling dissatisfied, worried, and unsure if aging is really the cause. Connecting with a geriatrician or physician who has experience caring for older adults is often best.
Here are a few suggestions you can use to help your search go more smoothly.
Advice for Choosing a Physician for a Senior
- Health insurance network: Start the search for a new physician by reviewing your family member’s insurance network. Create a list of in-network geriatricians and internal medicine physicians who are accepting new patients. Don’t assume every doctor accepts Medicare, either. Some don’t. If your loved one has a secondary insurance provider, be sure to review that network, too.
- Word of mouth: Asking other older adults or colleagues who have seniors in their life for recommendations can be helpful. It’s a good way to learn how empathetic and understanding the physician is with seniors.
- Hospital affiliations: While fewer and fewer primary care physicians follow patients in the hospital, some still do. Look up the physicians you are considering to see what hospitals they are affiliated with and if those are in your loved one’s network, too.
- Physician review sites: Unfortunately, online physician reviews aren’t as plentiful or robust as other types of service providers. People don’t usually take the time to rate physicians, so the ratings and information can be slim. However, taking a look online can still be informative. A few review sites worth visiting are Health Grades and Vitals.
- Convenient location: While location might not be very important for younger adults, it can be a deciding factor for seniors who try to limit their driving. Older adults are more likely to visit their physician’s office than young adults, so finding someone who is close by and easy to get to may be more important. Accessible parking is also something to consider.
- Visiting physician groups: Visiting physician groups and organizations are an increasingly popular alternative for seniors to consider. Primary care physicians come to the older adult’s home for routine wellness visits and sick visits when the senior isn’t feeling well.
- Virtual office visits: A service gaining popularity with primary care physicians is a virtual office visit. The senior can connect with their physician face-to-face via video chat services online. For simple conditions like a sinus infection or a cold, it can be very convenient.
Once you’ve found a physician that looks good on paper, the final step is to schedule an in-person visit. Medicare will pay for one wellness visit each year, as will many insurance companies. You and your senior loved one can use that visit to assess if the physician is a good fit.
After your loved one is happily settled with a new physician, you’ll likely want to take steps to build a strong relationship with the doctor, too. Our article “How to Build Trust with a Senior Loved One’s Physician” offers helpful tips for doing so. Check The Sunrise Blog regularly for more senior resources!