Geriatric Medicine May Help with Age-Related Concerns

older female patientPrimary care, geriatric medicine together address elder patient needs

Primary care physicians are able to assess your overall health and decide if you need more specialized care from additional experts.

However, at a certain time in life, even the primary care you receive may become specialized because of age-related chronic conditions.

This is when a geriatrician may be beneficial, says Gregg Warshaw, MD, UC Health geriatrician and UC College of Medicine professor.

“A geriatrician is specially trained to evaluate and manage the unique health care needs and treatment preferences of an older population,” he says. “Older adults may have special needs that can make their medical care more complicated. More than half of adults aged 65 and older have three or more medical problems, which can make caring for them a little trickier.”

For example, a medication that treats one health problem can worsen another, Warshaw notes.

“Geriatrics teams work together to take all conditions and treatments as well as quality of life and mental stability into consideration.”

Warshaw says the field of geriatrics is known for its team approach to care, supporting not only the patient but also their families and other caregivers.

A team is made up of physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, nutritionists, physical therapists and speech and hearing specialists.

“Together, this team evaluates the person’s medical, social and emotional needs as well as other health concerns common in older populations, like incontinence, falls, memory problems and managing multiple chronic conditions and medications,” he says, adding that specialists also take the patient’s social and living situation into consideration and his or her ability to perform everyday tasks.

Warshaw says that while a geriatrician might be the right fit for you or a loved one, that may not always be the case.

“People over age 65 have varying degrees of disability and illness, and some have no health problems at all,” he says. “Since most geriatricians focus their clinical practice on the very frail individuals in the older population who have extremely complicated medical and social problems, not all older persons need to see a geriatrician. In fact, most older people are cared for by their primary care physicians, family physicians and internists.

“No matter if you decide to see a geriatrician or continue to go to your primary care physician, it’s important to regularly receive your checkups and screenings and to continue to enjoy a healthy life.”

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