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Senior Health

Finding a new doctor when yours retires

06/22/2009

Question:

I am not that old, 56, but unfortunately I weigh 225 lbs. I spent many decades and tens of thousands of dollars trying to be a thinner person. I did not fall for fads. Every single program, plan, diet, etc. that I tried to follow was recommended by and monitored by an MD. After the phen-fen issue, which I took, and which caused some heart valve problems for me, I reassessed my relationship with my body and made a conscious decision to stop fighting my weight. Instead I try to focus on eating healthy foods and - when I could - exercising. I also have primary lymphedema and sometimes my legs get swollen and stiff and/or red and infected with lymph fluid. My long time doctor retired so I had to find another. It took me 3 months to get an appointment. At my first appointment the new dr spent 25 minutes trying to talk me into getting bariatric surgery. My legs were very swollen and red and oozing lymph fluids at the time and she took one look at them and said I do not have lymphedema, I "just" need to lose weight, and launched into another hard sell on bariatric surgery. I have terrible allergy and sinus problems and she wouldn`t even talk to me about that; the only thing she would discuss is my weight. I feel so abandoned and lost. I feel like I have no right to even go to the doctor any more unless I lose 100 lbs. first. Since that will never happen (I have been fighting with my weight for too long to have that fantasy any more) I feel like I no longer have a right to get health care, because I will never be thin enough to deserve it. What am I supposed to do? I just feel thrown out like a piece of used garbage that will never be allowed to get health care again? Should I find a new doctor? How? It took me three months to get an appointment with this one. Do I keep trying to make a new appointment with a different doctor every three months until I find one who is willing to see that I am a whole person, not just a "weight?" At that rate I might be dead before I find a doctor willing to do anything other than give me a bariatric surgery sales pitch.

Answer:

When searching for a new physician, it is recommended that you make an appointment and interview the doctor to find out if your beliefs and values about health and wellness are a match. Asking questions about the doctor's approach to obesity and your other health care issues you may be facing and being clear what your own beliefs are about holistic approach, may be helpful at the outset so that you won't feel that you've wasted time and become even more frustrated. There are physicians that approach patient care with "patient as partner" approach, wherein the patient is a responsible partner in health and wellness. The trend is towards patients taking more responsibility for being informed about their health and health care problems, making informed decisions about their own care while partnering with the physician for treatment decisions. 

Contact your local Medical Association for names of physicians, ask friends and relatives about their doctors, co-workers may also be helpful. Although you are 56, you may find help from your local Area Agency on Aging to provide some names of physicians in your locale.

It is important that you find a physician to work with towards attaining your best health care outcomes. You are your own best advocate for  obtaining health care. Bariatric surgery is but one option for weight loss. Obesity does not disqualify a person from health care, as far as I know. Every person needs to have a health care provider, especially as we grow older. 

Your frustration is understandable but do not give up on your search. Finding a doctor with the holistic approach you desire may present a challenge but well worth your search. Don't give up!

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Response by:

Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN Evelyn L Fitzwater, DSN, RN
Associate Professor Emerita
Associate Director of the
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati