How To Get Your Parent To Change Doctors

by Kim Keller

This is a question we get asked all the time.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.  We urged our dad for years to change his doctors, but the suggestion was always met with resistance.


Probably several reasons:  One, our dad figured all doctors were basically capable, and two, he didn’t want to have to start all over again.  A new doctor means explaining your health story all over again, and, even more daunting, MORE TESTS.  More poking, more prodding, more needles.  Also, there was probably some sense of loyalty — if our dad liked a doctor, he would cut him or her some slack.  In his mind, friendliness and a medical degree equaled competence.

But if you’re sure a change is necessary, stick to your guns.  Even if your parents are reluctant to make a move, don’t give in.  It’s just too important that your parents have the best possible treatment.  However, on the other hand, it is also important to keep your parents involved in their own decision-making, so you have to walk a thin line between coercion and cooperation.

Here are some helpful ideas when you feel a change in doctors is just what the doctor ordered:

  1. Make a list of your concerns regarding your parent’s current doctor.
  2. Do some research on the current doctor and potential replacements.  Visit to get as much useful information as possible.
  3. Talk with your parent about why he or she wants to stay with the current doctor, and try to suss out the potential fears.
  4. In order to shut you up, your parent may agree to a second opinion.  Assure your parent that he or she can use you as an excuse with the current doctor, such as, “My kids are making me do this.”  This can get your parent out of what may be perceived as an embarrassing situation (as it did for our dad).
  5. Convincing your parent to get a second opinion may open the door to consensus on a new doctor.

This was one of the most important lessons we learned.  We wish we’d been more persistent earlier on, to avoid the chaos when the care needs became urgent and the wrong doctors were already in place.

We’re interested in hearing from you on this subject (on all subjects, in fact), so please don’t be shy about sharing any ideas you might have that can help someone else.  Speak right up!


Kim Keller is the co-founder of In Care of Dad.  She lives and works in New York City.

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