The September 2017 issue of “AARPBulletin/Real Possibilities” features a look at an important topic: “Your Critical Health Decisions”. The focus of this article is on making informed and smart choices around your engagement of a surgeon, doctor, and hospital.

GDJ / Pixabay

I want to direct my attention to what goes into your choice of a primary care physician – one of the most important decisions you will ever make. This is especially true if there has been a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

In the AARP article this piece is called: “Find A Great Doctor”. Various health care experts talk about what is important around this decision, beyond ” . . . the diploma on the wall”.

Right out of the gate, Elizabeth Kavaler, M.D., nails it. Here’s what she says:

“First of all, any great anything – friend, partner, doctor – is going to listen to you. Right? If you are going to expose yourself and make yourself vulnerable to somebody, you want to make sure that they will hear you and respect you.”

My current primary care physician is part of a medical practice whose stated emphasis is individualized medical care. What this means is my physician and I have been able to build a relationship so that my medical care is truly personalized. To enable that kind of care, the environment in my doctor’s office setting is relaxed. Further, in place of the ubiquitous “10 minute hour”, there is allowed the kind of time needed during my visit to have a real, meaningful conversation with my doctor around my medical issue. And, she truly listens to me. We’re a team!

I am blessed and fortunate to have this kind of care experience. Individualized and person-centered medical care, however, should not be unique or unusual. It should be commonplace and accepted as the norm. This is especially true when an individual is experiencing cognitive decline and sees his or her doctor to discuss it.

I’ll never forget that day in January 2008 when I sat with my wife Nancy in our doctor’s office to learn more about her increasing memory and focus issues. This doctor, now retired, is associated with and co-founded the medical practice I described above. Nancy had undertaken a series of tests and exams. During this visit, we were told for the first time she was experiencing cognitive decline – described at that time by our doctor as Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI. It was indeed hard news to hear, and tears where shed. The fear and anxiety we experienced was mitigated, however, by our doctor’s calm, supportive and caring manner as he had this most difficult conversation with us.

It is therefore so vitally important that you engage the assistance of a physician who is willing to be patient, present to you, in the moment and engaged. 

“Sitting down with the patient says, ‘I have time for you’. I believe in the saying, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care'”. (Jay Kaplan, M.D., as quoted in the AARP piece)

So, do your due diligence. Be willing to “interview” your prospective doctor. Be clear, honest and straightforward around what you need with respect to your health care. Ask curious questions.

After all, you are important! You deserve the best care possible.