How to Pick a Doctor for Older People

How to Pick a Doctor for Older People

black doctor with woman

Choosing a primary care doctor for your elderly loved ones is one of the most important, yet toughest, tasks you must undertake.

It is trickier to pick the right doctor for older people because their needs are different and they are more emotionally sensitive than younger people.

A good doctor is easy to communicate with and will assist you in making medical decisions that are in line with your loved one’s habits and values. So, what guidelines should you use when looking for a doctor? This article is a complete guide on how to pick a doctor for your elderly loved ones.

Picking the right healthcare provider

The first item on your how to pick a doctor list is to identify the type of doctor you want. There are four types of medical professionals to choose from.

  • General practitioners- These are medical professionals that treat various medical issues. They do not focus on one medical field.
  • Internists- These are doctors, such as a cardiologist, who focus on adult health.
  • Family practitioners- Similar to general practitioners but with focus on family medicine.
  • Geriatrician- This is a doctor who has specialized in the care of older people.


It is wiser to pick a geriatrician. However, an internist or family practitioner may also have the experience to meet your needs. Once you have determined the kind of doctor you want, it’s time to ask for referrals from friends, coworkers, or your other healthcare specialists. Create a list of these referrals and pick the names of doctors who are recommended twice or thrice.

What to look for in a doctor

Besides competency and training, there are other important aspects you should look into. Before you make an appointment for your older loved one, here are some factors you should consider

anthem health insurance

  1. Health insurance: if you have a health insurance cover, then you understand your choice of healthcare providers is limited to specific physicians. This rule also applies to the elderly. Older people can only be treated by physicians who accept their insurance plans. If your parents are covered by Medicare, check for doctors on the Medicare website or call their help center to get referrals.
  2. Board certification: Call the doctor’s office and inquire if they have board certification. A board-certified doctor has extra training in their area of specialization.
  3. Location: Is the doctor’s office located near your home? This is information is helpful, especially in case of an emergency.
  4. Cooperation with other doctors: It is vital to check if your preferred doctor works in collaboration with other doctors. Remember older people are more susceptible to other ailments, such as heart attacks. You want a physician who has access to other doctors such as a cardiologist.
  5. Communication: To further narrow down your list, you must make sure that your elderly loved one can communicate with their doctor. Is there a language barrier between the doctor and patient? Pick a doctor that communicates in your preferred language and answers any question asked.

Another vital factor to consider is the religious beliefs of your parent. Some religions allow interaction between same sexes and are opposed to opposite sex interaction. With your narrowed lists, now it’s time to call the doctor’s office and ask some relevant questions.

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Learn about your preferred doctors

With your list of about 3 to 5 doctors, it is time to call their offices. The office staff will provide you with all the information you need; the doctor’s qualifications, education, payment procedures, and office policy. Be very keen on how the office staff addresses you. Remember these are the people you will deal with on your visits.

Here are critical questions to ask during the call.

  1. How many older patients does the doctor currently treat? The reason you want a doctor with a smaller group of patients is the attention they can give to each patient. A Doctor with a large number of patients may often have to delegate their patients to other health providers.
  2. What is the waiting period after making an appointment? Mainly, you want a doctor that can see your older relative as soon as they have an opening on their schedule. Also, pick a doctor that is available for emergencies.
  3. Where is the lab work done? Get to know whether there is a lab within the doctor’s office, or the patients are referred elsewhere.
  4. How are payments made? Ask if you have to pay first for services then file for insurance claims yourself or if the doctor’s office processes insurance claims.

With the answers from the above four questions, you will be able to narrow down your list to two or three doctors further. Book an appointment with each physician; you are likely to be charged for the visits.

First doctor’s visit

When you meet to talk with a doctor, let your elderly loved one tag along. Make sure to observe if he or she is comfortable at the doctor’s office. Also, monitor his/her interaction with the office staff and the primary care physician. Here are questions you should ask to determine if the doctor can meet your needs.

happy old couple

  • •Do you involve the family in care decisions?
  • •What do you think about alternative or complementary treatments? Alternative treatments involve using holistic natural therapies alongside standard medical treatments to improve the well-being of a patient.
  • •Do you work with other specialists? If yes, what are their areas of expertise?
  • •Can a family member sit-in during the visits?

Final decision

After the meeting, it is time to make a decision. The decision should be based a few things. First, on your parent’s ease at the doctor’s office. Secondly, on the way, the doctor interacted with you. Did the doctor answer all your questions? Were the answers satisfactory? If your answers to the questions mentioned above are yes, then you have your primary care physician. If the answer to the queries is no, then move on to the next doctor and repeat the above.

doctors talking

Getting the right doctor for older people is tasking. Older people have different needs, and they need specialized care. The guide above is designed to equip you on how to pick a doctor for older people. When you follow the tips carefully, you will get the right doctor for your elderly loved ones.

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