Dear Family Resource,
My 83-year-old mother has been seeing the same doctor for over 40 years. He’s been there for her through several illnesses and she’s very loyal to him. The problem is the doctor is nearly as old as mom and my impression is he’s not kept up with changes in the medical field. Mom has some age-related issues like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and hearing loss. I think she should be seeing a doctor who specializes in geriatrics, but she won’t even consider it. I’m concerned that her doctor is not being proactive and that she may be missing out on important preventive care. She still lives independently and I don’t want to suggest that she’s making a bad decision, but I don’t want to ignore the issue either. What’s your opinion?
Dear Worried Son,
Since your mom is independent and living safely on her own I think you can dial back your worry to mild concern. She could be doing just fine but let’s look at a few things. You already know that she’s been diagnosed with osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and hearing loss which suggests to me that her doctor may actually be on top of things. After all, there are many “old docs” out there who really know their stuff and do an excellent job. Don’t assume that she’s not getting the care she needs. Asking a few questions of your mom and her doctor or the manager of the practice can provide answers to many of your concerns. You can also review your mother’s primary doc’s credentials and training through the practice’s website. There should be info about each doctor’s education, licensure/board certification, and specialty. When her physician is ready to retire, help your mother choose a gerontologist or a doctor with training and experience with older adults.
You seem concerned that your mother is not receiving preventive care. Have you noticed changes in her physical or mental health? Many times it’s the people closest to someone that notices changes and can encourage their loved one to see their doctor. Often older adults will step up and present normally at their annual physical, and not come clean with their doctor about signs or symptoms they may be having out of fear. Encourage your mother to see her doctor when she is ill or notices changes in her health. Finally, one of the best preventive measures your mom can take to stay healthy as she ages is to have an annual physical exam, eat healthy food, and exercise. Between you and your mother’s doctor, she appears to be in good hands!