Finding a physician for an aging parent can present unexpected challenges. Some doctors do not take Medicare, others do not take new Medicare patients, however, they provide care to existing patients who age into Medicare. Sometimes a concierge practice will accept an older patient as long as a hefty yearly fee can be paid. Then there is the issue of whether a primary care provider, which most people will use because of the shortage of geriatricians, is knowledgeable about the challenges that geriatric patients face.
Finding a geriatrician, a physician specially trained to care for elderly adults, seems to be nearly impossible in most places.
Sometimes we just luck out and discover an excellent physician who has figured out how to provide good care in today’s market where medicine has become commodified. My parents, for instance, see a nurse practitioner who is trained in geriatrics. If either Mom or Dad needs to see a physician, a physician in the larger practice is accessible, but for most of their care, they do not need to see a doctor. My husband’s mother never found a physician who took the time to keep track of her care, though we tried hard to find such a provider.
Which brings me to an excellent, but somewhat grim, 2017article, We Need More Geriatricians, Not More Primary Care Physicians, appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine’s Catalyst publication. This is not good news for aging baby boomers.
The article examines various dramatic problems with geriatric medicine including fewer training programs for geriatricians, lower salaries, the proposed decrease in funding for research and training, and the increasing number of elderly who will need doctors knowledgeable about the medical problems related to aging.
But geriatricians have three important skill sets that many other physicians lack: training in aging-related physiological changes and clinical syndromes, as well as in team-based care and systems of care for older adults; a clinical focus that emphasizes functional status and a holistic approach to managing health…
It’s a pessimistic article but well worth reading.