Dr. Corinne Auman - Headshot Dr. Corinne Auman

Dr. Corinne Auman, Certified Senior Advisor, is an experienced educator, researcher, and entrepreneur. She currently teaches in the Gerontology department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is president of Choice Connections of North Carolina, and the author of the RockingChairSecrets.com blog. She can be reached at 336-215-1664.

A Common Care Mistake to Avoid – Don’t Always Assume the “Doctor knows best.”

That is why we go to the doctor, right? To get the expert opinion. To have him or her tell us what is wrong and what to do to fix it.

But can we always expect the doctor to have the “right” answer?

This basic assumption, that the doctor knows best, can get us into trouble if we aren’t paying attention.

For example, you count on the doctor to fill out prescription forms correctly, so that you can get the medicine you need. Doctors are highly trained in medicine and work hard to keep up-to-date with new medicines and medical procedures.

But most doctors are neither trained nor particularly experienced in community resources. So when it comes to assigning someone to an appropriate care community, like skilled nursing or assisted living, they do not always realize what happens to you after they fill out the forms ordering these resources.

My friend Bob tells this story:

“As part of my job I take any healthcare professional who wants to go on a ‘Tour of the Senior Healthcare World.’ After a tour of an Assisted Living building a doctor turned and said to me, “That was the nicest SKILLED NURSING building I’ve ever seen.”

Skilled Nursing is an entirely different level of care than Assisted Living. In fact, Skilled Nursing is the highest level of care you can receive outside of hospitalization, and has 24/7 nursing care, a doctor supervising each patient’s care and, importantly, generally comes at a higher cost than Assisted Living options.

But the doctor on Bob’s tour, the doctor who signs the form to recommend the correct level of care, could not tell the difference. Even after she had just been on a tour of the building.

I do not tell you this to paint doctors in a bad light. Doctors are smart people who got into medicine to help others. However, their medical training focuses on treating the patient, not on community resources that are available after the patient leaves the office or hospital. And once they are actually practicing medicine, they are SWAMPED with work. You should not simply count on the doctor to know what to do.

Ask questions. Advocate for yourself and your loved ones. Don’t assume the doctor always knows best.

Consider enlisting the help of an expert like the professionals who are members of the Aging Life Care Association who can help you navigate the senior healthcare world.