Caregiver Question | 11/30/23

My sister needs a new doctor. Where do I start?

DEAR CARALLEL: My sister and I are all each other has. Our mother passed away when she was only 59 and since then it’s been the two of us (and our pets of course).

That’s how it’s been for 26 years and counting and we’ve managed pretty well, if I do say so myself. Although my sister has had some health scares in recent years we keep chugging along, stay involved in our community center and spend a lot of time volunteering at the local animal shelter.

I’m thankful that we still live in the same town so we can do these things together, but also because I’m able to step in to help as much as she needs when health issues arise. 

She’s doing pretty well at the moment but neither of us can stand her doctor. I’ve seen this coming down the tracks for a bit but have put it off and put it off because I don’t really know where to start in helping her.

I feel like it should be easy to find a new doctor, but i’m stumped on the best way to go about it. I know that probably sounds silly but it’s true.  

Got any tips for me? They’ll be appreciated.– Kathy in Richland, WA

DEAR KATHY: It’s not a silly question at all. There aren’t any when it comes to caregiving or healthcare in general. And I’m glad you asked! 

The doctor should be a go-to partner, advocate, and trusted advisor on all matters related to your sister’s health and wellbeing. And it’s difficult for those things to be true if the patient doesn’t get along with them. 

So kudos to you for taking steps to find her a new one! 

If I were in your shoes, I’d think about the search in these terms: affordability, accessibility, specialty, advocacy, and compatibility.

Here’s what I mean. 

Affordability

If your sister has a health plan, be sure to seek out a doctor who works within that plan’s network. Calling the Member Services number on the back of her insurance card or looking online at the health plan’s network is a good first step. 

Keep in mind that if your sister is dependent on Social Security or VA healthcare, this may limit their choices. 

Accessibility

It’s a big plus if the office is conveniently located and easily accessible, especially if your sister has mobility challenges. Think about things like distance from home and ease of transportation to make medical appointments more manageable.

Specialty

Having a doctor who specializes in her specific condition(s) can make a world of difference when it comes to getting the care and/or counsel she needs–today, tomorrow, and in the future. 

Advocacy

The goal is to find a doctor who knows what’s best for your sister and sees themselves as a partner in her health and wellbeing. 

  • Will they communicate clearly with her? And with you as the caregiver?
  • Will they empower her (or you) to actively participate in the decision making processes?
  • Will they recognize and respect the cultural, social, and individual values that are important to your sister?
  • Will they coordinate care and help you both navigate the system when necessary? 

Answers to these questions can be indicative of what kind of advocate any doctor you’re considering will actually be. 

Compatibility

You already know this one because it’s at the heart of why you’re looking for a new provider. And from the tone and tenor of your email, I assume that if your sister isn’t a fan of this new doctor she’ll let you know. 

Having said that, it’d be worth accompanying your sister for the first visit or consult. That way you’ll have a baseline to compare with what you hear from her in terms of feedback. 

Framing your search this way can up the odds of you not just getting your sister a new doctor, but finding the ‘the right one’ for her. 

Oh and before I go, remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. 

Asking friends or even your social network for recommendations can be a good jump start. 

And delegating some of the research if you’re able can make it less time consuming. Friends or relatives who don’t live nearby could be great candidates to help with that part! 

You’ve got this, Kathy! 

–Jennifer, Carallel Care Advocate

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