Senior Health

5/31/2024 | By John Levan

The health care needs of aging adults change over the years, making selecting a provider critical. These tips on how to find the right doctor as you age can help.

The right doctor can treat current ailments and help prevent future health issues, providing guidance tailored to you and the aging process. The wrong doctor may be unable to adequately understand conditions more common to aging adults, hence unable to offer appropriate remedies.

Navigating the health care system and finding the right doctor as you age can be challenging. In addition to changes brought on by the years, seniors may need help with mobility limitations, specialized care, and replacing long-trusted physicians who retire or change practices.

Meet your needs by using the right doctor as you age

Even if you embrace a youthful attitude mentally, your body continues to age, and your health care professionals should understand the changes and how they affect preventive care and treatments.

First, then, seek an medical office trained in geriatric medicine.

One health care service that focuses on seniors, CenterWell, trains team members specifically to treat the senior population. CenterWell Senior Primary Care facilities offer comprehensive, holistic care.

“Our integrated care teams know that seniors often deal with a variety of physical, social, and emotional needs, all of which affect their overall health,” says Sheila Turbides Minaya, chief medical officer of CenterWell in Virginia. “We work to address each of the factors that contribute to a patient’s wellbeing.”

Senior services professionals at Bon Secours have been trained in geriatric medicine, offering specialized services such as palliative medicine, caregiver support, and consultations on cognitive changes, medication management, independence, and more.

Next, evaluate your current health condition and the likelihood of future conditions, including:

  • Diagnosed conditions or chronic diseases
  • Current treatments and therapies
  • Frequency of physician visits
  • Past surgeries and medical procedures
  • Family health history for potential hereditary conditions
  • Lifestyle and risk factors that might impact future health, like smoking, diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption
Senior man and his doctor looking at test results on a tablet, illustrating the importance of finding the right doctor as you age. Image by Wave Break Media Ltd.

This assessment will help determine the level of care you need and whether a general practitioner or a specialist would best serve your interests.

Accurately understanding and outlining your health needs means you can communicate effectively with potential health practitioners to determine if they have the experience and skills necessary to assist you now and into the future.

Your Changing Aging Body

Researching potential doctors

Friends and neighbors may be able to provide feedback on doctors they’ve used, but listen “between the lines” – are friends reflecting on a doctor’s bedside manner and professionalism or on their qualifications?

Similarly, be wary of ratings sites. While they may include useful objective information, the ratings may be of limited value. Many use only patient reviews, which are based on opinions rather than data on a physician’s treatment and care results. Other rating sites and local “Top Doc” publications may be paid rather than objective.

Confirm that the practice accepts your insurance

Since Medicare is a common health insurance for individuals aged 65 and older in the United States, finding a doctor who accepts Medicare is another crucial step. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Verify that the doctor is accepts Medicare. The online Medicare Find & Compare feature can help guide you.
  • Understand that some doctors accept Medicare assignment, meaning they accept Medicare’s approved amount for health care services as full payment. Others may accept Medicare but charge more than the Medicare-approved amount, leading to out-of-pocket costs.
  • Ask potential doctors about their Medicare participation status and billing practices to feel confident about the financial aspects of your care.

Evaluating accessibility and convenience

When choosing a doctor who can meet your needs, consider the accessibility of their services to help you maintain regular health care.

patient with doctor in hospital Monkey Business Images Dreamstime. Patient communications during a serious illness – with medical providers, family, friends, and associates – help in navigating the journey.
  • Ideally, the office will be close to home or on public transportation routes to ensure easy appointment access.
  • The facility should be accessible for those with mobility issues, with ramps, elevators, and possibly services for the hearing and visually impaired.
  • Similarly, the facility should have – or have access to – equipment that meets the needs of patients with disabilities. CenterWell, for example, has larger examination rooms with tables that specifically meet the needs of patients with mobility issues.
  • Confirm that the practice’s hours align with your schedule, especially if you have caretaking arrangements or prefer off-peak travel times.
  • Check that the doctor has a reasonable waiting time for scheduling appointments and if they offer urgent, same-day appointments.
  • See if the practice offers online services for appointment scheduling, prescription refills, test results, and secure messaging. These can save time and improve care management.
  • It can be beneficial if a hospital is within the same health system as your doctor’s office. This allows for smoother transitions of care if hospitalization is needed.
  • Ensure affiliated hospitals can meet your future needs, such as cardiology, orthopedics, or stroke care.

Finding the right doctor as you grow older can guide you to a healthier, well-managed future. You can build a solid and trustworthy relationship with a health care provider equipped to help you navigate the complexities of aging and maintain independence and well-being.

John Levan

Freelance writer John Levan focuses on insurance, finance, and manufacturing as well as senior living topics. Based in Pennsylvania, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Alvernia University and Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills.