Turning 65 is a milestone birthday that comes with many new changes--and that’s not necessarily a bad thing! You have more options available to you: you can now choose to retire, be covered by Medicare and collect Social Security benefits. But something else you may also be considering is finding a new doctor for seniors.
A geriatrician is a specialist who focuses on the unique health conditions that occur with age. Since our risk of chronic conditions and other impairments like immobility and dementia increase with age, many seniors commonly hear that they must visit a geriatrician once they turn 65.
But is switching doctors always necessary to maintaining senior health? Before you decide to find a geriatrician, there are some things you need to consider first, according to a recent article in US News:
Your Current Health Status
When it comes to senior health, age really is just a number. Despite the popular misconception, getting older does not have to be synonymous with diminished health. So if you’re incorporating the key components of healthy aging in your daily life and your health is in good standing, you should not feel compelled to find a geriatrician simply because you turned 65.
If you are diagnosed with a chronic condition or experience another impairment, however, speak with your doctor about the best course of action. Depending on your condition, switching doctors may not be necessary or beneficial to your health. It takes time for a new doctor to learn your unique needs as a patient, and in some cases, your current doctor who has a deep understanding of your medical history will be able to provide better care than someone who has no previous knowledge of your health status.
The Quality of Care You’re Receiving
Your decision to switch doctors can be based on something as simple as this: if you’re happy with the quality of care you’re receiving, then by all means stay with your current doctor. Not only will a good physician be able to care for you at any age, but they will also put your needs as a patient first above everything else.
If at any point you do not feel at ease with the care you’re receiving, however, ask your doctor these questions to determine if you should search for a new doctor.
Even if you’re satisfied with the quality of care, you may not have the option to stay with your doctor based on your health insurance. Although 93 percent of non-pediatric care physicians accept Medicare, a Medicare Advantage plan may require you to find a geriatrician who participates with the plan.
Before you begin Medicare coverage, research each plan’s requirements carefully, and if you already signed up for coverage, review your Medicare plan to see if you need to switch doctors to have your care covered.
Lack of Geriatricians Available
A final thing you need to consider is that finding a doctor for seniors can be difficult depending on where you live. According to a recent report, geriatricians are in short supply, resulting in a senior health care crisis for aging Baby Boomers. For the projected 70 million older Americans who will be 65 years or older in 2030, there will only be 24,000 geriatricians available to care for them.
Although this shortage certainly complicates this issue, it does not mean that finding a new doctor is impossible. Resources like HealthinAging.org and Medicare’s Physician Compare tool will help you find any geriatricians that are available in your area.
After taking all of these factors into consideration, you may make the decision to switch doctors, and that’s not something you should feel guilty about. Doctors know that each patient has their own needs, so you will not hurt their feelings. Whether it’s because you seek better care or because your Medicare plan requires you to do so, it’s essential that you find a doctor who you feel comfortable with.
How to Find a Geriatrician That’s Right for You
Although searching for a new doctor can be a long and stressful process, it’s also a worthwhile one. Your health should always be a top priority, and finding the geriatrician that’s right for you is essential to your overall happiness and wellbeing.
To ensure that you make the best choice for your health, these tips will help you find a great new doctor:
- Create a list of essential qualities. Building a relationship with your doctor that is based around mutual respect and good communication is key to senior health, so make a list of the qualities you are looking for in a doctor. This list can include anything from their age and gender to their area of specialty and experience with patients similar to you.
- Seek referrals. Ask your family members, friends, neighbors and other loved ones about their physicians or if they know of a doctor for seniors. Your insurance company should also be able to provide you a list of nearby doctors.
- Make appointments. Although you will probably have to pay for these appointments, there’s no better way to find out which doctor is right for you than to meet with them and discuss the care they will be able to provide.
- Consider comfort level. Especially since you’ll be visiting your doctor more frequently as you age, it’s essential that you are completely comfortable with them. Taking your comfort level into account with each physician you are considering can help you narrow down your choices. Pay attention to how the rest of the staff treats you as well to ensure you’re receiving the best all-around care and service.
Promoting Senior Health Year-Round
Whether or not you decide to find a geriatrician, scheduling regular doctor appointments is essential in maintaining senior health, especially if you suffer from any chronic conditions or age-related impairments. Not only do these conditions increase your risk of experiencing a medical emergency, but they can also lead to a loss of independence.
That’s why in addition to visiting your doctor regularly, another key component of healthy aging is protecting yourself with a medical alert device from Medical Guardian. With our wide range of products, you can rest assured that you will stay safe and healthy all year-round.