Seniors have complex health needs
Most older adults have multiple chronic health conditions. Treatments for one issue can easily affect other aspects of their health and make things worse overall. Managing these complex health situations are where geriatricians are especially helpful.
We found a great article by Kaiser Health News (KHN) that describes how geriatricians are different from regular internal medicine doctors and how seniors could benefit from their expertise.
KHN interviewed several prominent geriatricians to understand their unique approach to caring for seniors and get tips on what to look for when finding a doctor for your older adult. Here, we share highlights from their article.
What is a geriatrician?
Geriatricians are internal or family medicine doctors who have additional training in senior health care needs.
They can be primary care doctors, provide consultations, or work as part of an older adult’s medical team.
What does a geriatric doctor do?
A story about impersonal care from a non-geriatrics doctor
A woman shares how frustrated she was by the care her mother got from her primary care doctor.
Her mother’s condition was causing pain and loss of independence and the doctor’s prescriptions weren’t helping. She said “I felt that he was looking through my mother instead of looking at her.”
Doctors commented on why seeing a geriatrician could be helpful to the mother.
Focus on quality of life and patient goals
Geriatricians focus on quality of life and what patients want from their medical care. They take a lot more time to get to know their patients — finding out what the older adult can and can’t do and about their support systems and opportunities for social connection.
Geriatricians also focus on helping seniors and families:
- Figure out their priorities for healthcare
- Create care plans
- Review and manage all medications
- Coordinate care with other health providers
- Provide palliative and end-of-life care
In addition, knowing about differences between older bodies vs. middle-aged bodies helps geriatricians choose treatments that work better for seniors.
Understand issues that commonly affect seniors
Most primary care doctors don’t spend enough time finding out about and solving issues that affect older adults.
Falls, incontinence, muscle weakness, frailty, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and delirium have a huge impact on quality of life. Geriatricians are experts at these “geriatric syndromes.”
Dr. John Morley, professor of geriatrics at Saint Louis University, says:
“If you’re losing weight, you’re falling, you can’t climb a flight of stairs, you’re tired all the time, you’re unhappy and you’re on 10 or more medications, go see a geriatrician,”
“Much of what we do is get rid of treatments prescribed by other physicians that aren’t working,”
Find a local geriatrician or doctor experienced in geriatric care
To find a geriatrician in your area, use the American Geriatrics Society’s geriatrician finder.
Geriatrics is one of the rarest medical specialties, so there might not be a geriatrician in your area. The next best thing is a doctor who has experience with caring for older adults.
To make sure the doctor truly has the type of experience your older adult needs, don’t be afraid to ask for more information, like:
- Have they received additional training in geriatrics?
- How do they approach caring for seniors differently than for middle-aged patients?
- Are there medications they avoid using with older adults?
At an appointment, the doctor should want to review all of your older adult’s medications, ask about geriatric syndromes (described above), and ask about their goals for care.
Based on their answers and what you observe at the appointment, you’ll get a good idea of whether they take caring for seniors seriously or if they view them as basically the same as middle-aged patients.
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Expert Home Care, Inc.
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