The Doctor Is Out
As America’s 77 million baby boomers head into their senior years, it’s getting harder to find geriatricians, the doctors who specialize in treating elderly people. Nationwide, only 7,200 certified geriatricians practice today (20 percent less than in 1996), and the American Geriatric Society estimates more than three times that many will be needed in the next decade.
What’s troublesome is that geriatricians spend more time working to follow up on patients and coordinate family and home healthcare with multiple providers, yet make less income than a general practitioner. Medicare doesn’t always cover geriatric care or incentivize geriatric practice either, spending less than .05 percent of its dollars training physicians to care for the elderly.
That means seniors and those needing at home care need to more actively engage a good geriatrician or get more from every doctor visit with a medical team. Family caregivers can help with the personal healthcare management of their aging loved ones by:
- Writing down all of the senior’s symptoms and questions before doctor visits to zero-in on answers.
- Going with their loved one to doctor appointments to help decipher orders (the family caregiver could bring a release form, signed by both the patient and caregiver, to authorize the doctor to speak directly to both).
- Making handy all test results like an MRI or X-ray so there’s no delay getting needed information from another office.
- Keeping a list of medications and length of use so all background information is readily available.
What medical professionals would be most helpful on your aging loved one’s team?