A patient might see the same doctor for decades as people feel comfortable and loyal to their physicians. But as we age, our needs change and considering a geriatrician can become a pressing need. Just like there are pediatricians for babies and children who are specifically trained to check on a young growing body, there are specialty doctors for aging bodies. As parents, we are trained to bring our children to pediatricians right from birth. But at the other end of the spectrum, many seniors and their families do not know when the time is right to reach out to a geriatrician.
What is a Geriatrician?
A geriatrician is a physician that is certified in internal or family medicine. These professionals have proficiency in the care of older adults and expertise in navigating the labyrinth of psychological and social problems that often occur among senior citizens. They also specialize in the medical complexities of seniors and many of the chronic conditions they experience.
Geriatricians have a greater understanding of what happens to a senior’s mind and how that affects their cognitive abilities and behavior. Some of these areas of expertise include arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, frailty, hearing and much more. They understand issues such as the causes of falls and how to prevent them. These doctors often pay more attention to a patient’s overall quality of life and set goals to keep seniors’ bodies and minds healthy.
These experts also know it’s no secret that senior patients can be, and usually are, prescribed a variety of medications. The more medicine a senior patient is is required to take, the greater the chance of side effects, or dangerous drug addictions and interactions. Complex medication regiments also increase the chances of inadvertent mismanagement. Geriatricians know that seniors’ bodies process drugs differently than they did at a younger age, therefore using their expertise to evaluate a patient’s medicine and prioritize which drugs are absolutely necessary.
When Should You Go?
Most patients of geriatricians are 65 or older, but there is no set age on when you can start seeing your preferred geriatrician. Experts recommend seeing a geriatrician if you:
- Become frail or impaired
- Have multiple conditions that require complex care
- Manage multiple medications
- Find that treatment for one medical condition negatively affects a second condition
- Start to feel symptoms of diseases associated with aging such as dementia, incontinence, or osteoporosis
How to Pick A Geriatrician
Picking the right doctor is never an easy task. We all have preferred requirements that differ per individual. John Hopkins put together a list of things to look for when choosing your geriatric physician:
- Ask about their training and whether they have special certifications. Check to see if they are affiliated with an academic medical center that usually offers patients the most up-to-date medical care.
- Make sure the geriatrician accepts your insurance.
- Check to see if there are any in-home services.
- Find out how the geriatrician works with other specialists such as cardiologists, pulmonologists and neurologists.
- Learn how the geriatrician communicates with patients such as face to face, phone calls, texts or electronic portals.
- Find a geriatrician with a similar philosophy about your health goals.
- Work with a local senior living advisor to find geriatricians in your community.
The Big Picture
Geriatricians pay more attention to seniors’ overall quality of life and their goals. Consultations typically take more time than a standard physical or check-in. These professionals don’t just gather data on patients’ ailments; they collect information on lifestyle, family, and other community-related questions to get a fuller picture of their patient’s life. Geriatricians understand that they often can’t cure a senior’s health conditions, so they strive to bring them to the highest functional status possible to ensure they are able to enjoy their daily lives. Their main goal is to maximize independence and preserve the quality of life for geriatric patients.
Research by John Hopkins shows that older adults who receive care from a geriatrician while in the hospital have better function when discharged. Seniors also are more likely to go home directly after discharge rather than to a rehabilitation center or senior community.
There are approximately 7,000 geriatricians practicing medicine in the United States. A report from the American Health Rankings shows there are about 28 geriatricians for every 100,000 adults over the age of 65 in Florida. The American Geriatrics Society estimates that to meet the demand, medical schools would have to train at least 6,250 additional geriatricians between now and 2030, or about 450 more a year than the current rate.
How Aging Care Solutions Can Help
At Aging Care Solutions, you are never alone through any process of aging. If you or someone you love needs additional information regarding the need for a geriatrician or are seeking other senior resource options in your area, we are here to help. Contact us today.
(Blog post courtesy of Oasis Senior Advisors)