By Caroline DeFilippo, MD MPH | Internal Medicine
I hear the same story repeated every single day in my office. “I’ve been so busy taking care of my children, my aging parents, and my family, getting them scheduled with their doctors, that I hardly have time to make an appointment for myself. I feel as though I am constantly at a doctor’s office. Having a primary care doctor is the last thing on my list. Why do I need one?”
As a mother of three young children, I understand limitations and time constraints. I feel restricted with my personal time as well. But having a physician who knows you is important, especially one who knows you as a “whole” instead of “incident-related.” Having a trusted relationship with a doctor who can see the big picture of your full medical history is important in maintaining one’s overall health. By seeing a primary care physician, you get individualized care, comprehensive treatment, preventive health screenings, chronic disease management, and more.
As we all know, with age comes increased risk for disease and chronic medical conditions. Whether it is a discussion about ensuring you are following a healthy diet or optimizing your exercise routine, simple conversations can go a long way. I regularly talk about tips on getting a quick workout and finding ways to incorporate healthy eating into a busy day. Small concerns can turn into big health problems if not addressed. Additionally, there are a number of illnesses that don’t have symptoms that should be screened for as you get older. High blood pressure and cholesterol are easily treated but can have serious consequences if diagnosis is delayed. Similarly, ensuring appropriate screening for cancers is essential. This includes pap smears, mammograms and colonoscopies. There are also vaccines that should be administered.
Beyond these obvious benefits, the value of having a “medical home” is most important. As an internist at CareMount Medical, I have this conversation often with mothers of all ages who have waited years to find a medical home. Trust me when I say there is so much more to having an internist than just getting vaccines. When illnesses arise, it helps to have an office where you are known as a patient, so you can schedule a same day sick visit. Having your own doctor who has met you before and tracked your health over time is important in the continuum of care. He or she can answer questions when you are scared or need to know next steps. Having a longitudinal relationship with a physician, based on trust and knowledge, will ensure better healthcare for you in the future. Once you have a primary care doctor who you trust and rely on, it opens up the doors for communication, better referrals for specialists that you might need and, of course, less stress. You won’t have to extensively search for specialists if you need one. But most of all, the relationship you have with your provider is one you can carry throughout a lifetime in good and bad times. We are here to support you.
If I could provide a gift to mothers this weekend, it would be the value of taking care of yourself. I know how hard it can be juggling the demands of everyone else in your lives, but your health must not be forgotten.
My gift to myself this Mother’s Day is making an appointment to talk to my doctor. I hope you will do the same.
Caroline DeFilippo, MD, MPH, is Assistant Medical Director and a practicing internist at CareMount Medical in the Mount Kisco office. She resides in Bedford with her husband and three children. www.caremountmedical.com