Senior Health: What Type of Doctor is Right for You

Seeing a primary care physician (PCP) is important for general health and wellness, but what should seniors look for in a primary care doctor?

Primary care is continuous healthcare that addresses your mental and physical wellbeing through disease prevention and chronic illness management. You see your PCP for checkups, vaccinations, concerns about your health, and for ongoing issues like diabetes or hypertension.

When looking for an adult primary care doctor, there are many types of physicians to choose from. PCPs are typically trained in internal medicine, family medicine, or geriatric medicine. Understanding the difference between these types of doctors will help you decide which is right for you.

Internal medicine doctors, also called internists, treat patients from age 18 to over 100. Internists are trained to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease and manage chronic illness. Similarly, family medicine doctors focus on prevention, diagnosis, and disease management, but they see an even wider age range of patients, from birth to over 100. Because of the age range, family medicine doctors have additional training and skills related to pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.

Geriatric medicine physicians are specifically trained to address the needs of seniors. Working only with patients aged 65 and over, geriatricians focus on the physical, mental, and social health of older people. In addition to preventing, diagnosing, and managing chronic disease, geriatricians are trained to target elements of health and wellness that affect quality of life, like physical limitations, mobility issues, cognitive changes, isolation, and other challenges within the home environment. Geriatricians are adept at helping patients and their families navigate challenging diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Perhaps most importantly, geriatricians strive to provide holistic healthcare that aligns with each person’s priorities.

Regardless of which PCP you see, the ideal doctor is someone with whom you feel comfortable and trust. It is also important to recognize that as you transition from one stage of life to another, the doctor best for you will change, too. Just as children are cared for by doctors with pediatrics training, and adults are well cared for by internists or family medicine doctors, seniors should strongly consider if a geriatrician is right for them.

For seniors, two of the biggest barriers to primary care are 1) difficulty accessing care due to transportation or mobility issues; and 2) feeling like their doctor does not listen to them and their concerns. New and innovative primary care models, like Welcome Health, are emerging to address these concerns.

Believing that older people have earned the right to respectful, accessible, and convenient primary care, Welcome Health is one of the only primary care providers in L.A. and Orange County to make house calls.

Through this innovative home-based primary care model, Welcome Health delivers all the benefits of geriatric medicine directly to your door, including preventive care, chronic disease management, and treatment and support for aging-related conditions that affect seniors’ quality of life. Communication is of utmost importance at Welcome Health because the team anchors your care around your priorities, values, and health objectives, so that every decision is made within the context of what matters most to you.

Your relationship with your PCP is built on regular visits, communication, and trust. Look for doctors who listen to your concerns, align your care with your personal priorities, and support you through disease or age-related challenges if or when they arrive. Ultimately, primary care should focus on your physical and mental wellbeing, helping you live life in the ways that matter most to you. To learn more, visit welcomehealth.com.

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