Is The Doctor In? The Physician’s Role In Long-Term Care

My Elder believes that nursing home residents should be given the proper amount of care they deserve – and one of the most important factor is the presence and availability of a physician. But what exactly does physician involvement mean in quality long-term elder care? My Elder discusses the facts.


If you compare a nursing home to an orchestra, the attending physician is the conductor. His responsibility is to coordinate the work that is required of all other professional disciplines.

With all that goes on a daily basis in a nursing home, most families will admit that they don’t even know the name of the attending physician taking care of their loved one. In the real world people go to see a particular orchestra because of the conductor. They could probably not give you the name of an orchestra member.

Of all the important services in a nursing home, physician services are the most important. If you can’t get a handle on these services you better run and get an advocate that can.

All nursing homes are also required by law to have a Medical Director who is supposed to coordinate the care rendered by facility physicians.

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In accordance with Federal and State Law, attending physicians should lead the clinical decision-making for patients under their care. They can provide a high level of knowledge, skill, and experience needed in caring for a medically complex population in a climate of high public expectations and stringent regulatory requirements.

Please see our fact sheet regarding physician services. I don’t suggest that you memorize it, but what’s in it can save your loved one’s life.

What You MUST Do:

  1. Know the attending physician’s name, address, phone number, and office hours.
  2. Know the same about the Medical Director. He spends a certain amount of time at the facility.
  3. If your loved one is getting poor care, BUG the physician and the medical director. They are accountable.


My Elder provides elder advocacy services to families. Talk to us about long-term planning, finding the right home for your loved ones, preventing crisis and abuse, and ensuring they receive the best care possible.