5 Necessary Traits in Primary Care Physicians for Older Adults

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Every senior needs a primary care physician to coordinate their medical services. Without one, medications and treatments from other clinicians can conflict with each other. To optimize your aging loved one’s health, his or her primary doctor should have certain senior-friendly qualities. When considering a physician, select one with the following traits.

1. Trustworthiness

Among the doctor’s credentials should be board certification. On physician review websites, background checks should show a blemish-free malpractice history, with no sanctions, disciplinary actions, or board actions. When the doctor orders tests, they’re solely in the best interests of the seniors he or she cares for, not for business profit. Billing statements reflect actual services, not false ones to boost reimbursements.

The doctor should be prompt and reliable, whether returning phone calls, completing medical forms, or fulfilling promised aspects of care. When starting new treatments, the doctor follows up with seniors, asking to see them again or call within a specific time frame. Meeting these criteria shows the doctor has integrity. 

Finding a trustworthy doctor is just one of the difficult tasks you may face as a family caregiver. One of the most challenging tasks of helping an elderly relative age in place safely and comfortably is researching agencies that provide home care. West Hartford families can turn to Home Care Assistance for reliable, high-quality in-home care for aging adults. We offer 24-hour live-in care for seniors who require extensive assistance, and we also offer respite care for family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties.

2. Respectfulness

Seniors should be treated with courtesy and dignity when seeing a doctor. Frailty should be regarded with gentleness and dementia with compassion. The doctor you choose should be gracious, diplomatic, and non-judgmental toward seniors so they feel comfortable speaking freely. The physician should validate the concerns of elders and their caregivers, not dismissing worries as irrelevant.

The doctor endeavors to include seniors in discussions and decisions regarding their medical care. If your loved one shows apparent cognitive loss, social withdrawal, or disability, the doctor should acknowledge his or her presence, not ignoring or talking over his or her head. The doctor’s professionalism needs to be consistent, evident in all interactions, including those with staff members.

3. Attentiveness

The physician should give direct eye contact, listening carefully when seniors and their caregivers speak, without interrupting. Observant of body language, the doctor skillfully interprets non-verbal clues, aiding diagnosis and treatment.

Being detail-oriented is another hallmark of attentive clinical care. Through in-depth questioning, evaluation, and documentation, doctors can protect seniors from drug and treatment errors.

With the right physician, questions are welcomed, answered in language that seniors and family members can understand. During office hours, when the doctor isn’t available, telephone calls should be fielded by staff members or the answering service, keeping the doctor informed.

4. Patience

When interacting with others, the doctor needs to be composed and easygoing. Seniors receive ample time to respond to questions and instructions. The doctor readily and cheerfully adapts examinations to each individual senior’s health.

For example, with a disabled person, the doctor might evaluate him or her in a chair, as opposed to the exam table. While speaking with a hearing-impaired senior, the doctor automatically sits closer or raises his or her voice. With seniors who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, the doctor is unflappable, easily coaxing cooperation and soothing agitation. A good clinician does whatever possible to make visits easier for people.

5. Empathy

The right doctor for your loved one should be sensitive to human emotions. Mentally stepping into a person’s shoes, the senior-friendly physician understands the challenges of aging. Empathy is expressed through kind facial expressions, voice tones, and body language. Your loved one should derive comfort and strength from the doctor’s caring bedside manner. 

A good primary care physician weighs his or her words before speaking. Choosing them carefully, the doctor considers how seniors will receive them, knowing the impact words can have. Seniors sense the physician is “in their corner,” like a dedicated coach. Caregivers and family members also feel supported, with the doctor on their team. 

Apart from a good, empathic primary physician, seniors may also need help going to the doctor regularly. West Hartford elder care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently.

Finding a Primary Care Physician


A primary care physician (PCP) for seniors can be an internist, general practitioner, or family medicine doctor. Internists commonly treat adults, specializing in disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Family doctors care for people of all ages, with broad medical knowledge, skill, and experience. General practitioners function similarly. Within this category are doctors of alternative medicine, like osteopaths, with “DO” after their names.

If your loved one has complex medical issues, consider seeking a geriatrician. This type of PCP has completed a residency in either family or internal medicine and is board-certified in geriatrics, the care of adults age 65 and older. With a holistic approach to senior healthcare, geriatricians address both quality of life and medical issues common to aging, such as vision loss and dementia.


Begin the process of finding a senior-friendly PCP by canvassing friends, coworkers, and family members. You can also ask your pharmacist, dentist, another trusted healthcare provider, or a local senior center.


After obtaining PCP names, research them on physician review websites. Reliable sites include Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, Zocdoc, Angie’s List, and Yelp. Read the reviews for frank opinions of the doctor’s skills, demeanor, and overall practice. Then, read the doctor’s credentials and background. For PCPs who sound impressive, document their qualifications and positive remarks.

Phone Calls

For doctors who are possibilities, call their offices, asking if they accept your loved one’s insurance. Note how your inquiry is handled by the office staff. Then, from your conversations, select one PCP and make an appointment.

Before the visit, compile a list of questions to ask the physician. After the consultation, if you don’t feel comfortable with that doctor, pursue another. Continue the interview process until you meet the ideal physician for your loved one’s needs. 

Finding a trustworthy and compassionate primary care doctor while managing other caregiving duties can be tiring. For some families, caring for a senior loved one can be overwhelming at times. Luckily, they can rely on professional respite care. West Hartford, Connecticut, Home Care Assistance is a trusted name in respite and hourly care. Our caregivers are available around the clock to assist seniors with bathing, transportation, medication reminders, exercise, and much more, allowing families the time they need to focus on other important responsibilities or just take a break. Call (860) 372-4500 today to select the most suitable in-home care plan for your loved one.


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