Why the Caregiver Should Choose a Doctor Carefully posted on: 07-08-2009

As a caregiver you have to find a doctor that you can trust and develop a rapport with, this can be challenging at best. Finding a qualified doctor can be especially challenging for a caregiver of the the elderly population because many doctors are not specially trained in geriatric medicine. The reason that this presents a problem is because people of advanced age have different health issues than younger people do. Further, common ailments such as the flu or common cold can turn into life threatening situations in the elderly. Because their immune systems are usually compromised by a host of ailments in addition to advanced age, they are unable to rebound from minor illnesses the way other age groups are able to do.

This can present a challenge for doctors because they have to treat run of the mill diseases very differently in patients of advanced age. If they are not trained in doing that, the health care of the elderly patients will be compromised. Thankfully, there are some advocates on the medical science front who are bringing these concerns to light.

In a recently published medical journal called Academic Medicine, a group of doctors and other healthcare providers comprised a list of basic geriatric training that every newly graduating and currently practicing physician should know. The majority of the list was comprised of preventive techniques, such as fall prevention, varied presentations of common diseases, and better patient in-office assessment. This journal comes on the heels of the 2008 Institute of Medicine study titled “Retooling for an Aged America”. That study also outlined and lobbied for all healthcare practitioners to be versed in basic geriatric care.

The caregiver, or family member, should be prudent in choosing a healthcare provider. Most people are leery of fresh out of medical school physicians already, but these studies show that there is even more cause for alarm when it comes to healthcare management in the elderly. Newly trained doctors do not have the experience that established doctors do, which means they also have not had the chance to treat many – if any – elderly patients. This further limits their understanding of the patients’ needs. If a geriatric specialist cannot be found locally, the next best option for families of elderly loved ones is to see a general practitioner that has several years of experience. While a doctor with many years of experience may not have specific geriatric care training, the chance is higher that he or she has seen enough aged patients to understand the differential care that they require.