How to build trust with your Parkinson’s doctors

Young female Doctor in blue uniform and protective face mask giving advice to Senior female patient
Written by Steve Phillips


Have you ever had the experience of walking into an appointment with a new care provider and feeling that they are so young that they won’t understand you or that you won’t receive the care you’ve come to expect? If so, you’re not alone. Although there are many people who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s when younger than 50, the majority of us are diagnosed later in life. This means, naturally, that we encounter more and more providers who are much younger than we are. And, for many, building a trusting relationship with a physician or other care provider young enough to be your grandchild can seem daunting. So, how do you overcome this feeling?

DID EVERYONE get YOUNGER OR DID I GET OLDER?

As we age, we may have similar experiences not only with doctors but also with pharmacy staff, laboratory technicians, nurses, and various therapists. Significantly younger individuals have stepped into roles that previously were performed by people our own age or older. Intuitively, we seek people with experience, wisdom, perspective, diplomas on their office walls that display completion dates decades ago, grey hair, sensible socks, and “professional attire.” When our expectations are not met in these encounters, our defensive mechanisms ignite, and we experience skepticism, doubt, and fear. Those feelings must be changed into confidence, trust, and inclusion. So, how is trust established when our initial reaction is one of concern and caution?

TRUST IS VITAL.

Before health care providers can understand and effectively treat us, we must feel as if we can trust them. One way to begin building this trusting relationship is to be open and honest with yourself, your care partner, and your new physician. No one knows your body and what you experience better than you do. No doctor will ever fully understand how you are affected by your Parkinson’s as well as you do. Therefore, it is undeniably our responsibility, as people with Parkinson’s, to be active participants in our health care and to play a leadership role in managing the professionals on our care teams. Gone are the days when we blindly and silently awaited an unquestioned pronouncement of our medical status and treatment plan from an omnipotent source.

ASK AS MANY QUESTIONS AS YOU CAN. DON’T STOP UNTIL THE ANSWERS MAKE YOU FEEL HEARD, VALUED, AND UNDERSTOOD.

To begin, our new doctor must provide the basic building blocks of trust by answering any question we may have. Some you may want to ask your new physician include:
  • Why did you select this type of medicine to practice?
  • Where and when did you go to school? Complete your additional education? Begin to practice medicine?
  • What are your interests and specialties?
  • What type of patients do you usually see?
  • Do you encourage patient-centered medicine?
  • Do you support alternative or holistic approaches being incorporated into the overall care plan?
  • What ancillary resources do you bring to care plans?
  • Do you utilize telemedicine in your practice?
  • Will you be willing to spend time to thoroughly hear and understand my questions and concerns?
  • Will you include and support my care partner and team?
  • How do you measure patient success?
  • Who are the other key players in your practice whom I will interact with?
If you do not feel comfortable posing these types of questions, take someone with you who is. Keep asking until you get an answer. Continue asking questions until you fully understand the answer. Remember the importance of the relationship you are entering into with a new doctor, and do not be afraid to visit a second or third doctor until the answers to these questions engender confidence and trust for both you and your care partner. Keep an open mind, challenge your own assumptions, and ask as many questions as you can to find care team members who make you feel trusted, heard, valued, and understood. That is the path to building a strong care team, building trust with your Parkinson’s doctors, and having confidence that your providers, regardless of age, are giving you the quality care you deserve.

Additional Resources

How to Communicate with your Parkinson’s Doctors

I Have Parkinson’s and I’m Okay

Worksheets to Help You Prepare for Medical Appointments