9 Questions a Caregiver Should Ask Their Parent’s Doctor
Being a caregiver can be fulfilling and joyful, but it can also be a lot of work. You may not know where to find information about your parent’s health condition or treatment plan. Luckily, your parent’s doctor can be a valuable resource who you can –– and should –– rely on for answers. Here are nine questions a caregiver should ask their parent or loved one’s doctor:
1. What can you tell me about my caregiving situation?
Every caregiver’s situation is different. Your loved one may have different medical, nutritional, or assistive needs, and your doctor can tell you the best place to start with meeting your loved one’s healthcare needs.
For example, your parent may need non-emergency medical transportation to their various appointments, and they might need special care. Your parent’s doctor may be able to provide contact information for medical transportation services, or even schedule rides to the office. You might not have considered that your loved one may need an EMT-certified driver, especially with rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft offering rides to doctor’s appointments.
When you ask your parent’s healthcare provider about your unique situation, the physician can discuss the individual needs your parent has. Your loved one’s doctor should feel like a partner in providing the best quality care. Your doctor may even tell you ways to take care of yourself, because it can be easy to forget your own needs when you’re so focused on someone else’s.
2. Can you help me connect with other caregivers in similar situations to me?
It can be easy to feel like you’re on your own as a caregiver. An important question a caregiver should ask is what type of non-medical support they might need. Your parents’ provider may recommend resources such as caregiver support groups and online forums. It’s valuable to connect with other people in similar situations.
When you feel like you have emotional support, you’re able to take better care of your parent. It can be easy to feel frustrated or overwhelmed as a caregiver. A support group can give you ideas to cope, tips for providing better care, and/or just lend an empathetic ear. Your parent’s doctor can give you ideas about how to build a support system.
3. What can I do to build confidence in my caregiving activities and skills?
Your parent’s doctor should talk about your parent’s treatment plan and care needs with you. You should feel confident in your abilities to properly administer medications or help with physical therapy. If you’re unsure of how to do something the doctor recommends, ask them to explain the task further.
Ask if there are any shortcuts, tips, or tricks you need to know about. Find out if you can practice complex tasks so you can help effectively. Some tasks may be dangerous to perform on your own, and you may need to find outside assistance. Find out if you need to look into home health care services or if you can perform the tasks on your own.
4. Can you help me arrange respite care when I need a break?
Providing 24-hour care can be rewarding, but also exhausting. Sometimes you need to take a break. “Respite care” is when your loved one stays at a hospital or other care facility so you can get some much-needed rest. It may give you peace of mind to know that your parent is staying at a facility with qualified professionals.
Your loved one’s healthcare provider can point you in the right direction for finding respite care services.
5. What do I need to know about my parent’s diagnosis?
Every health condition or disease may have different need-to-know information. For example, your doctor may tell you to avoid fatty cuts of beef if your loved one has high cholesterol.
Your parent’s provider should tell you how and when to administer medications, how often you need to make follow-up appointments, and what symptoms to watch out for. The healthcare provider should help you provide the best possible care for your loved one, and that includes knowing the ins and outs of your parent’s health.
6. How will you coordinate with my loved one’s other healthcare providers?
Some diagnoses mean that your parent requires a care team. For example, your loved one might have a gerontologist, a physical therapist, and a neurologist. Ask how the team will coordinate your loved one’s care and keep you in the loop.
For example, some healthcare facilities feature apps to contact care team members if you have questions or need to refill prescriptions. Health facility apps can also include post-appointment notes so you can access any information you need.
7. I found this information on the internet. Is it accurate?
Google has a wealth of information about any disease you can think of. Sources such as WebMD and the Mayo Clinic offer information about symptoms, causes, risk factors, and treatments for a seemingly infinite number of health conditions.
Even though the internet has more information that you could ever need, the information can pose a problem for doctors and patients.
For example, your loved one could fall and bruise their knee. You Google “knee pain,” and read the first web page you see from WebMD. The article you read could have you thinking that your loved one needs a full knee replacement, but all they really need is an ice pack and some over-the-counter pain medications.
Your parent’s doctor will be able to help determine what’s really going on and sort out the facts from the fiction.
8. Should I be concerned about these new symptoms I’m observing?
If your parent has a degenerative health condition or they have new symptoms, ask the doctor if you should be concerned. Your loved one’s healthcare provider will let you know if they need to see your loved one or if you notice something normal. Your parent’s doctor should be available to answer your questions in a timely manner.
9. How will I know when it’s time to look into hospice care?
At some point, your loved one may need to switch from curative (to find a cure) care to palliative (to provide comfort) care. Your parent may be eligible for hospice care if curative care will not work and palliative care is the only option.
Ask your doctor to let you know when it’s time to start palliative care only, and if they know of any resources to find hospice care.
Find Medicare Caregiver Resources
As a caregiver, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Use this list of questions a caregiver should ask their loved one’s doctor can be a valuable source of information if you ask the right questions.
Another valuable resource is your parent’s health insurance plan. If you have durable power of attorney, you can make Medicare decisions for your loved one. A licensed agent with Medicare Plan Finder may be able to help you find a Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan that suits your healthcare needs and fits your budget. Call 1-844-431-1832 or contact us here to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation appointment today.
How to Find the Right Geriatric Doctor
Finding an internal medicine doctor you really connect with can be difficult, and finding the right geriatric doctor, or geriatrician, can be even more difficult. You must have confidence in your provider’s ability to treat your conditions or to refer you to other providers with extensive experience working with older adults.. Your health is the most important thing you have, and you need a doctor you’re comfortable with.
What to Look for in Geriatric Doctors
All geriatric doctors specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and other medical or chronic conditions common to seniors. You want healthcare providers who know how to treat your population and provide quality care plans. However, a doctor’s area of focus is just one thing you should look for. You also want to find a doctor that you can feel comfortable with.
It’s important that you feel comfortable asking questions about personal health concerns and that you can trust that your doctor is listening. You should feel like your health is as important to your doctor as it is to you.
The right geriatrician will take pride in providing the best quality of care possible. You should feel like your doctor thinks of you as a whole person, not just a list of conditions and symptoms.
Your geriatrician should be capable of finding solutions to your health problems. For example, let’s say you get sick one day, so you go to the doctor. Your doctor diagnoses your health condition and prescribes a medication he or she thinks is best. You should have follow-up appointments to assess how the medication works, and your doctor should be committed to finding a prescription that works if the first one doesn’t.
A good place to start is to find out what other patients say about doctors in your area. Talk to friends, family, and caregiver if you have one to see if they like their geriatricians. Ask for recommendations from healthcare professionals you know and trust.
Look at doctor reviews on websites such as Healthgrades.com and read Google reviews. When you look for reviews on Google, also search for the doctor’s name and see if he or she is in the news. If his or her name pops up with a long history of legal trouble, you should move on.
How a Medicare Advantage Plan can Help
Look for a doctor who takes your insurance. If you have Medicare, you have a great resource to receive quality healthcare. However, Original Medicare doesn’t always approve every charge, and Medicare Parts A and B can be limited in what they cover.
That’s where Medicare Advantage (MA) plans come in. MA plans come from private insurance carriers and they can cover a lot of services Original Medicare does not. Medicare Advantage plans can cover a range of services including meal delivery, hearing, vision, and even fitness classes. Some plans even include prescription drug coverage!
There may be many MA plans to choose from in your area, and a great way to find out what’s available is to talk to a qualified professional who can help you find the right plan. You won’t lose your Original Medicare coverage if you enroll in a MA plan, and the “extras” your doctor recommends, like physical activity or home health devices, may be covered.
What if I’ve Already Found a Geriatric Medicine Doctor I Like?
Maybe you’ve found a doctor you like, and he or she decides to stop taking your insurance plan. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have to wait until the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) to make changes to your plan unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). If you want to stick with your doctor and are willing to wait until the AEP, which is every year from October 15 to December 7, find out what MA insurance plans your doctor accepts.
Usually, your doctor will give you a list of carriers he or she accepts, and Medicare Plan Finder benefits advisors have access to many different plans and carriers. Your benefits advisor will work with you to find a plan that will allow you to keep your geriatric doctor.
What is the Difference Between a Geriatric Doctor and a Regular Doctor?
Geriatricians provide primary care for seniors who have complicated medical issues. Age is not the only factor that causes people to need geriatricians. For example, an 80-year-old who is active and only takes a couple of medications doesn’t need to see a geriatrician, but a 65-year-old who has diabetes and heart disease does.
Your geriatric care will involve a team of medical professionals that will provide a comprehensive healthcare plan. You’ll work with your primary geriatric doctor, and often times a social worker, physical therapist, and/or a nutritionist depending on your needs.
If a doctor does not specify that they are a geriatric doctor, that does not necessarily mean that they do not work with older patients. However, doctors who do call themselves geriatric doctors typically have studied geriatrics and are more specialized in that area.
When You Should Find a New Doctor
If you feel like your doctor refuses to answer your questions, it may be time to find a new one. Your doctor has a responsibility to listen to you and answer your questions. If you say you’re concerned about a recommended procedure, your doctor should ask why. Your doctor should be able to ease your concerns and make sure you’re comfortable.
You should also find a new geriatrician if the office staff is unprofessional. If they don’t do their due diligence and provide you with all of the information you need, your health could be at serious risk. Your doctor and the office staff should have great communication skills. Look for a new doctor if your geriatrician doesn’t communicate with the rest of your care team, Your doctor should respond to you within a reasonable timeframe.
How to Find a New Doctor
The first step you should take when looking for a new doctor is to look for recommendations. Ask your friends and family members if they have a doctor that they like. Then, you can call that doctor’s office to verify that they accept your insurance.
If you don’t have any good recommendations, you may want to use an online search tool to find a doctor that accepts your plan.
Your plan might have a search tool of its own. That would be a great place to start because you know for sure that the information will be as up-to-date as possible. You can be sure that the doctors listed there will accept your plan (though it is always a good idea to call the doctor and ask before you set your first appointment).
Medicare.Gov and ZocDoc are two other great tools you can use.
Medicare.Gov’s Physician Finder Tool
Medicare.Gov is a great place to start because it will tell you which doctors accept Original Medicare (Parts A and B). If you have a private plan like Medicare Advantage, be aware that just because a doctor accepts Medicare does not necessarily mean they will accept your private Medicare Advantage plan.
You may be asked to select exactly which type of doctor you are looking for. Then, you’ll see a list of doctors who accept Medicare near you. You can filter by board certification, group affiliation, male/female doctors, distance, and whether or not they accept Medicare-approved payment (meaning you won’t be billed for more than the Medicare deductible and coinsurance).
ZocDoc Medicare Doctor Search Tool
ZocDoc is another great online tool for finding doctors near you, and it includes reviews! There is also an appointment scheduling feature so that you can book an appointment without having to call the office.
You can filter your search by the procedure you need as well as by appointment time, languages, gender, hospital affiliations, etc.. To show you how that works, we used our home city of Nashville and “primary care” as an example. Notice how we selected “Medicare” as our form of insurance.
We Can Help
Having the right geriatric team and insurance plan is paramount to having the best overall health possible. The team at Medicare Plan Finder can help you navigate the Medicare plans out there and find the best fit. Call us at 800-691-0473 or contact us here today.
This blog was originally written on May 17, 2019, by Troy Frink and updated on September 19, 2019, by Anastasia Iliou.