As loved ones age they may need different types of physicians to manage their care. Chronic disease requires the care of specialists that can range from cardiologists to oncologists. But what type of physician should manage a senior’s overall care? As chronic diseases and multiple medications complicate a senior’s health, a physician who specializes in the care of elderly patients may be required. These specialists are called gerentologists or geriatricians. Their job is to coordinate care with other physicians and guide patients in selecting the best treatments.
Usually a geriatrician is an internal medicine physician or family physician who has additional training and certification in evaluating and managing the complex healthcare needs of elderly patients. Adult gerontological nurse practitioners have advanced training as well and can provide specialized care for older adults.
If your loved one has three or more medical problems, including multiple chronic diseases, it is a good idea to seek the care of a geriatrician. Many older adults have several conditions simultaneously that may include heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and/or high blood pressure. These conditions may be exacerbated by cognitive difficulties like dementia, which includes Alzheimer’s disease.
Medications are complex as well. The multiple medications that may be prescribed to treat chronic diseases can create a web of drug interactions and side effects that require special training to manage. A gerontologist is trained to take a holistic look at what has been prescribed and manage the medications for the best outcome for the patient.
A geriatrician also has broader knowledge of the types of support services that a senior may need. They are aware of, and knowledgeable about, home health services and how they can support a senior and his or her family. They can also make recommendations on tests and screenings that can proactively support the senior’s health, such as bone density and stress tests. These tests may not be required for patients at younger ages, but become extremely important in managing health over the age of 65.
While not a social worker, a geriatrician can also help ease the stress of family members who may be serving as caregivers. Educating caregivers about the health needs of a senior can lead to the right care and appropriate resources for support. Caregivers can discuss the senior’s health symptoms with the geriatrician and know they are being considered within the context of the senior’s total health picture.
How do I find a geriatrician?
Your primary care provider can provider you with a referral to a geriatrician. The geriatrician can become the primary care provider for your loved one or provide specialty care and counsel to the existing primary care physician.
Healthyaging.org provides a list of geriatricians around the country. The site is a service of the American Geriatrics Society.
You can also call the medical society of your state and ask for a listing of geriatricians in your area.
Having a physician who can manage a senior’s care in a holistic manner, with a comprehensive view of the patient’s health, chronic conditions, medications and overall health is invaluable. It can provide more positive outcomes and a better quality of life than addressing health issues in a piecemeal manner.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.