Mar 26
Physicians Coat

Is It Time to Break Up with Your Family Physician?

As we age, our health care needs change. A family physician who has always been relied on for a yearly physical and flu shot or an occasional cold might not be as experienced at understanding the unique challenges older adults face. Sometimes troubling or painful symptoms are dismissed as a normal part of aging when they might not be.

How can you tell if it is time to break up with your primary care physician or encourage your senior loved one to do so?

Researchers at AARP explored this issue with the help of geriatrician, Dr. James Pacala. They developed six signs that you can use to determine if you need to find a doctor who specializes in geriatrics.

Advice for Seniors: 6 Signs You Might Need a New Physician

Dr. Pacala advises seniors to be cautious when a physician:

  1. Blames everything on aging. Dismissing every concern as just “normal aging” without investigation.
  2. Brushes off chronic health conditions. If you live with arthritis or hearing loss or another chronic health condition that doesn’t have a cure, you know how frustrating it is to have your symptoms brushed off. While there might not be a cure, a physician experienced at working with older adults will usually have suggestions to help manage the symptoms.
  3. Lots of tests without results. On the opposite end of the spectrum from brushing off chronic conditions is the physician who schedules multiple tests and prescribes a lot of medicines that never help. It can be a sign that they just aren’t accustomed to working with older patients.
  4. Not alerting you to side effects. When a physician prescribes a new medication, especially for an older patient, they should always take time to review potential problems with you. Because seniors process medicine differently than younger people do, they experience more side effects and adverse reactions.
  5. The doctor never has time for questions. If the physician never has the time or patience for you to ask questions and clarify concerns, it’s probably time to move on to a new physician. This is true at any age but especially true as we grow older.
  6. Doesn’t account for lifestyle factors. When a physician routinely prescribes tests or treatments that don’t take in to account your personal situation, they may no longer be the right fit for you. Understanding if a patient would be better served getting home health care services versus outpatient therapy or would benefit from aquatic therapy instead of physical therapy are two examples.

If more than one or two of these warning signs sound familiar, it might be time to begin exploring your options. Five Ways to Find Dr. Right from CNN Health contains helpful information and tips to help you find a new physician.