Seniors and Doctors: How Many is Too Many?

By May 28, 2015Archives

Declining health is a fact of life for many seniors. Many common medical diseases become more prevalent with increasing age such as arthritis, heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, and neurological decline. Most of these conditions can be treated with medication but our medical system can get quite complicated.

In times past, we went to one family physician who treated most of our health conditions. Today, our medical system has become decentralized with one patient who may see multiple doctors for multiple diseases. It’s not uncommon for a senior to have three or more doctors such as a cardiologist for heart and blood pressure concerns, a neurologist or psychiatrist for mental health concerns, and endocrinologist for diabetes, a pulmonologist for COPD, emphysema or other breathing issues, and a rheumatologist for arthritis and osteoporosis.

Unfortunately, for many seniors, there is no one physician who is overseeing all of the medical treatments. This creates a situation where each physician may not know what the other doctors are doing. While the t may do his best to treat a patient’s COPD, he may be inadvertently interfering with treatments the cardiologist recommends for high blood pressure.

Research has shown that the more physicians a patient sees, the chance of medication interactions goes up. In fact, one study has shown that with just two doctors, the average senior gets 27 prescriptions and is exposed to up to 10 drug interactions each year.

To protect from this type of occurrence, there are several things that seniors or their caregivers should do:

  • Inform physicians about other medical conditions that are being treated
  • Inform physicians about all medications that are prescribed
  • Sign consent form so that each physician may receive medical information from the other physicians
  • Ask that your laboratory results be forwarded to other physicians
  • Find one doctor, usually an internist or family practitioner to act as a medical “overseer.” He or she should be aware of all medical treatments and should be mainly concerned with the “overall” picture.
  • Be sure to use only one pharmacy for all prescriptions. The pharmacist will be able to quickly identify any drug interactions and discuss them with the physician(s).
  • If there is confusion about anything, ask for an explanation. If necessary, ask for it to be explained again until the senior understands it or have the doctor explain the issue to a caregiver.
  • Making sure to provide all of the medical information to each health professional can help to avoid conflicting treatments and drug interactions which can be dangerous.

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