Tapping in to the Expertise of a Geriatrician
A primary care doctor is the first point of contact for most health problems, but as adults age a geriatrician may be another expert to add to the mix. A geriatrician – an expert in diagnosing and treating older adults – can help seniors who suffer from chronic, complex medical conditions, including social, psychological and physical concerns.
As our bodies change over time, our health care needs adapt and change along with us. The specialty of geriatrics addresses specific needs of aging to improve health, independence and quality of life. According to the American Geriatrics Society, there’s no hard and fast rule as to when to see a geriatric professional, but it suggests:
- When an older person’s condition causes considerable impairment or frailty (this tends to happen after age 75 or when someone starts managing a number of health conditions).
- When an older person’s family, friends, or other caregivers start feeling considerable stress related to care.
- When older adults or their caregivers start having trouble following complex treatments or working with many different healthcare professionals for multiple health needs.
How Does A Geriatrician Help?
Older adults have age-related changes, often take multiple medications and have more health conditions than they did in their younger years. A geriatrician adds an in-depth and complementary point of view that is targeted to managing these changes. With their special expertise, a geriatrician knows how to peel back the layers to get to the root of a problem in a complex maze of aging physiology, drug interactions and treatment challenges.
In addition, specialists in geriatrics are knowledgeable in geriatric syndromes – conditions that are common in older adults – and specifically trained in how these ailments affect the physical and emotional health of an elderly person. These may include falls, incontinence, memory problems, depression, and medication side effects. But no matter what the issue, the underlying goal is to help older adults lead a life that is fulfilling and help them maintain the activities they enjoy.
It’s A Partnership
Geriatricians often work as part of a health care team which ensures that care is focused on the whole person. The team may include nurses, physician assistants, social workers, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, psychiatrists and pharmacists as well as others with unique skills for evaluating and managing health and care for older men and women. Geriatricians also tap into community resources, and work with assisted living facilities and long term care facilities to try and find the best solutions for an individual’s particular needs.
As more and more of us live longer and healthier lives, we should not forget to do everything we can to enjoy years of well-being and fulfillment as we grow older. New and smarter ways to approach care for older adults and understanding the unique health circumstances that come with aging are at the core of the medical specialty of geriatrics. For a family member or loved one, a geriatrician may be just what the doctor ordered.
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