How to Find the Best Doctor for Your Elderly Parents

A primary care provider (PCP) for elderly patients is called a geriatrician. This kind of physician has finished a residency in either internal medicine or family medicine and is board-certified to treat older adults. It's important for your elderly parents to see a geriatrician because they specialize in treating the complex medical needs aging requires.

Female patient in exam room with doctor
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Are You Covered By Health Insurance?

If your parents use an insurance provider to cover their medical expenses, their choice might be limited to a specific pre-determined list of in-network physicians. As you probably already know from your own experience with health insurance, their freedom of choice when it comes to healthcare providers depends on what type of plan they have. Start narrowing down the list based on their insurance plan.

Are You Covered By Medicare?

If your parents have coverage under Medicare,'s "Physicians Compare" pages offer a comprehensive search engine that will list Preferred Health Professionals (PHP) in her area. On this website, you can search for a PHP by last name, a group practice name or a specific medical condition, as well as by body part or organ system.

If you don't want to deal with the website, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE and a representative can provide more personal help, as well as send you a printed version of your personalized search results.

Consider Getting a Referral

Sometimes getting a referral from a person or organization you trust is the best way to find the right PHP. Here are some suggestions from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Talk to friends, neighbors or relatives who see a geriatrician they are happy with.
  • Ask other health professionals you know, including your previous provider or your local pharmacist.
  • If your mother or father has a specific medical condition, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, consult an advocacy group.

Other Important Considerations

To find the best PHP for your elderly parents, take a look at these important considerations before making your choice:

  • Location: Choose a PHP with a location close to your parents' home and consider the location's convenience for the caregiver who may, now or in the future, bring her to appointments.
  • Standards of Excellence: Look for a physician affiliated with a practice or professional network that requires high standards and a good record of positive patient outcomes. Standards of excellence include board certifications and associations with leading medical associations.

Ask Questions

Now that you have a short-list of physicians your considering, give the one you think is best a call and make an appointment to interview them either over the phone or in-person. This meeting might be free or they may charge a co-payment.

The interview might sound like an intimidating task, but this is the best way to find the right physician for your parent. Have a discussion about your parent's health and ask questions that are important to both of you. For some people, the physician's personality is as important as their qualifications.

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By Marian Anne Eure
Marian Eure, RN, is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in adult health care, health promotion, and health education.