Help Aging Parents: The Doctor Patient Relationship

I read the cover story, “What Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew,” in the March 11, 2011 Consumer Reports magazine with interest and an eye towards helping aging parents. It’s excerpted in the above link; the additional major points follow:

1. The  importance of the long-term doctor-patient relationship. Research suggests patients who frequently switch doctors have more health problems and spend more on care than patients who stay with one doctor.

2. The importance of following–and being able to follow–doctors’ advice or treatment recommendations. Patients need to feel comfortable doing this or asking questions if they can’t or don’t understand. They should be able to express any doubts or concerns about treatment, side effects or other health-related issues.

3.  The importance of keeping a diary or log of treatments, medications, tests, procedure, health issues. Interestingly, in this age of electronic medical records, we learn that 89% of the doctors interviewed in Consumer Reports want patients to know “that it pays to keep track of your medical history.”

4.  Two people remember things better than one. In addition, a person who isn’t feeling well may not have the best judgment, thus going to a doctor’s appointment with someone is recommended.  Can’t we conclude, then, that it’s helpful when an adult child (or a friend or relative) accompanies aging parents to doctors’ appointments (assuming parents don’t mind)?

5.  Time with the doctor is precious, so coming to the appointment with questions written down and prioritized makes the most of the time allotted.  I found faxing questions ahead of an appointment saved precious time after mother had her stroke and we went for follow-up appointments. You might ask if emailing is preferred.

There’s an additional piece connected to “What Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew“– “Finding Dr. Right,” copied in its entirety in the above link.

As we try to help parents age well, finding the right doctor can make all the difference. I continue to be an advocate of geriatricians for older people. Geriatricians, with advanced specialty training in geriatrics, treat patients 65 and older. They work with primary care physicians; An older person need not give up his/her primary care doctor.  If you’re unfamiliar with geriatricians, do read Karen’s comment about her 80+ year-old’s mothers first appointment by linking to