If you would like the elder in your life to experience optimal health, consider booking an appointment with a geriatrician, an expert in issues associated with aging. Having worked with seniors my entire career, I’ve come to truly appreciate how geriatricians can provide a more holistic approach than most primary care practitioners. It’s because they have specific training in the medical, social and psychological concerns of the aging, and with more information about senior health becoming available all the time, they stay on top of the newest knowledge.
Here is a quick look at four of the key services that geriatricians provide.
1. Prescribing and reviewing medications
Geriatricians will review all of their patients’ medications, making changes if they believe they are taking too many or the wrong kind. These doctors understand that older patients react differently to prescription and over-the counter medication than younger people, as their body metabolizes drugs more slowly. They also have expertise working with seniors who take multiple medications and know how to cut down on the risk of adverse drug interactions.
2. Fall prevention
Falls are a leading cause of death and disability in seniors. Geriatricians address this problem by assessing a senior’s fall risk and creating a fall prevention plan that may include such interventions as home modification, assistive devices, and referral to a physical therapist for mobility and gait stability training.
3. Dementia assessment
For anyone concerned about their loved one’s cognitive health, booking a comprehensive dementia assessment is the next right step. Although a general practitioner can perform one, geriatricians are trained to recognize the difference between normal age-related memory loss and dementia, which is a disease and not a normal part of growing older.
4. End of life planning
A geriatrician can also help families plan ahead for end of life care by discussing various life-sustaining treatments as well as advance care directives.
Another thing you should be aware of is that geriatricians often work on multidisciplinary teams that include geriatric nurses, physical and occupational therapists, registered dieticians, certified diabetes educators, and social workers or psychiatrists. This team approach focuses on many aspects of the patient's life, including social support, mental health and nutrition.
Although geriatricians are the primary care providers for many older adults, some patients simply see them for a comprehensive geriatric consultation, which can be very beneficial in and of itself. This exam typically entails:
- A review of medications
- An analysis of pain
- Cognitive testing
- Osteoporosis screening
- Discussion of advance care directives
- Vision and hearing testing
- Social work consult
- A family meeting
After the consultation, the geriatrician will send the findings as well as their recommendations to the patient’s primary care physician.
Although not every senior needs to see a geriatrician, I strongly recommend that you find a geriatrician if your loved one has complex medical or social issues. These healthcare professionals can be instrumental in ensuring that your loved one enjoys the best quality of life possible.