How to Find the Best Doctor for Your Elderly Parents

Why You Should Be Looking for a Geriatrician

Senior man and doctor
Images Bazaar/Getty Images

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.

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 PHPs 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 has a specific medical condition, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, consult an their 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 mother's 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 her either over the phone or in-person. This meeting might be free or she may charge a co-payment.

    The interview might sound intimidating task, but this is the best way to find the right physician for your mother. Have a discussion about your mother's health and ask questions that are important to the both of you.

    For some people, the physicians personality is as important as their qualifications.

    More Senior Health Resources

    Do You Need To See a Geriatrician?

    Types of Primary Care Physicians (PCPs)


    National Institutes of Health, Medline Plus: Choosing a Primary Care Provider (2013).

    Northwell Health: Finding A Primary Care Physician

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Where can I find a doctor that accepts Medicare and Medicaid? (2015).

    Continue Reading