Expert Q & A

Does a Physician Handle Emotional Issues of Seniors?

Dec 28, 2012 10:30AM
Question: I am preparing my grandfather for his first doctor’s visit in years. Should he just be talking about his physical concerns or is he allowed to talk about his emotional worries too?

Patient Communications Expert,  Edward Leigh
Thank you for writing.  Of course, your father must feel free to discuss all his physical concerns with his physician.  Your father should also feel free to discuss emotional concerns, however the physician may be in the role of referrer rather than a direct source of help.

The physical and emotional components are often intertwined, such as the emotional stress of having a chronic illness. For example, cancer is a physical illness that takes an emotional toll on patients.  

Your father’s physician is most likely not in a position to offer a lengthy counseling session, however he / she should be empathic and caring.  

Your father’s physician may handle emotional concerns is several ways, including offering both counseling and pharmaceutical options.  I am always concerned about only offering medications without the addition of other treatments, such as a referral to a counselor. In many cases, no pharmaceutical intervention is needed and what is needed is a referral to a trained counselor who can listen and help work through issues.  

Good luck to your father.

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Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.  For more information, go to
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