By Krisha McCoy
A geriatrician is something more than a physician who simply cares for old people. The geriatrician should, above all, be well grounded in internal medicine, have a genuine fondness for the elderly and their problems, and be experienced in neurology, psychiatry and rehabilitation medicine. A possible additional role is that of organizer and coordinator of health services for old people.
Having a good relationship with a doctor who is qualified to meet your healthcare needs is an important part of healthy aging. For some older adults, switching from your current primary care physician to a geriatrician might be a good idea.
What Is a Geriatrician?
A geriatrician is a physician who specializes in geriatrics, the branch of medicine that focuses on senior health and the prevention and treatment of disability and disease in old age. Geriatricians are board-certified in family medicine or internal medicine and have also obtained the Certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatric Medicine.
When You Might Need a Geriatrician
As you enter your senior years, you may develop disabilities or illnesses that are more common to this age group. While some seniors have no health concerns, many struggles with frailty, incontinence, frequent falls, problems with memory, and medication-related side effects.
If you are frail or have complicated medical problems, you might want to switch to a geriatrician. The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) suggests that a geriatrician is consulted when:
- Significant age-related frailty and impairment occur, which is more likely in older people who have multiple diseases, disabilities, and/or mental problems.
- The patient’s condition is causing the caregiving team, including family members and friends, to feel significant stress and strain.
The Holistic Approach of a Geriatric Health Care Team
A geriatric health care team doesn’t just treat your medical conditions. They take a more holistic approach, evaluating your past illnesses in addition to your current health condition to come up with a healthy aging plan that’s right for you.
If you’re suffering from significant frailty, having problems performing so-called activities of daily living — like bathing, dressing, or eating — or dealing with other ailments associated with old age, your team will work together to determine how to best address your individual concerns. Your doctor and other health care team members will evaluate your living conditions and work with your family, friends, and other supporters to ensure that you’re getting the best care possible.
Finding the Right Geriatrician
If you think a geriatrician might be right for you or for a loved one, talk with your current primary care doctor. He or she might be able to refer you to a qualified geriatrician in your area. You might also find a local geriatrician through the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging, a nonprofit organization that provides a referral service online or by phone at 1-800-563-4916.