Approximately one in five Americans are over the age of 65, and that number is quickly growing. As baby boomers reach retirement, many decide to make the move from a primary care physician to a geriatrician – primary care doctors who have special training in offering health care to seniors.
The health care needs of people change as they age, and many begin to experience new medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, renal failure, or heart disease. Some inevitable signs of aging take place over time, such as a slower metabolism, and lead to a decline in physical activity. Some medical conditions appear suddenly, such as a stroke or heart attack, and require immediate intervention. These factors are some of the reasons people may seek the advice of a geriatric physician.
Geriatric physicians are especially attuned to the unique health needs of seniors. For example, as motor skills decline, seniors carry an increased risk of injury due to falls. To reduce those risks, a geriatrician may refer a patient to physical or occupational therapy. Geriatricians are trained to recognize the signs that a person may need assistance with one or more aspects of daily living – such as bathing, cooking, or medication management. They can then make recommendations for home care services, allowing their patients to live independently with a goal of ensuring that each patient experience the maximum quality of life possible.
Another area of a geriatrician’s expertise involves medication management. Elderly people respond differently to medication than younger patients, and the doctor can offer insight into drug interactions and side effects unique to seniors.
The aging process also affects the mental state, and geriatric physicians are familiar with various cognitive conditions such memory loss, dementia, and depression, that come with age. Because of this, geriatricians can be great resources to families who may need referrals to social workers or other outside agencies for their elderly loved ones.
If you think you might benefit from visiting a geriatrician, check with your insurance to inquire about doctors in your area, or contact your primary care doctor to request a referral.