Also called geriatric doctors, geriatricians are specially trained in the medical treatment of adults aged 65 and above. Geriatricians are often confused with gerontologists, but they are very different fields. Although both are specialists in senior health, only geriatricians are medical doctors. Meanwhile, gerontologists are professionals who study and offer support during aging.
As of 2020, there are about 7,000 practicing geriatricians in the United States. A federal study in the New York Times notes that over 33,000 geriatricians will be needed by 2025.
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To qualify as a geriatrician, a fully trained medical doctor must complete or acquire the following requirements:
- A medical residency program.
- A valid state license to practice medicine.
- A board certification in internal or family medicine.
- A fellowship at an accredited geriatric facility.
- The Geriatric Medicine Certification Examination with a passing grade.
1. What Types of Condition Do Geriatricians Treat?
Geriatricians are highly trained in the treatment and manifestation of chronic conditions in seniors. A few examples are:
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia affect 11% of all seniors. Because of their extensive training in age-related diseases, geriatric doctors are familiar with the many ways that cognitive decline may affect seniors and their families.
As adults age, their frailty and likelihood to fall are compounded by conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, balance issues, and vision loss. Geriatricians can prescribe medications and physical therapy treatments that help impede the acceleration of these conditions.
Over 10% of the older population suffers from complications with their organs. Some of the most common conditions are heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic kidney disease. In seniors, these ailments may seriously degrade their quality of life and cause further issues down the line. Geriatric doctors can treat the present symptoms these conditions may be causing, while also preventing future effects.
2. When Should You Visit a Geriatrician?
Just as you would see a pediatrician as a child, so should you see a geriatrician in your older years. A geriatric doctor’s specialized education and training afford them a well-rounded and highly-attuned grasp of elderly care. Here are some key reasons why a patient may want to approach a geriatric doctor:
- If your primary physician is not tweaking their diagnoses and treatments for your age.
- If you have more than one chronic condition—which 68% of the senior population does.
- If you’re taking multiple medications.
- If you’re looking for a more holistic health plan.
- If you have any age-related concerns.
- If you prefer a physician with a more compassionate bedside manner who can offer longer appointments.
3. What Are the Benefits of Visiting a Geriatrician?
Geriatric doctors are capable of seeing the domino effect that disease has on older adults. Thus, they are concerned with treating both current symptoms, while also taking into account how these treatments will affect a senior’s future wellbeing.
Data on NBC shows that medication-related complications are among the top causes of death in those aged 65 and above. To curb this, geriatric doctors account for every medication that a patient takes before adjusting them accordingly. This may mean that some conditions are treated over longer periods with less aggressive medication to prevent adverse medical reactions.
Comprehensive Healthcare Coordination
Because elderly care is highly nuanced, geriatricians often work and coordinate with various other health care providers like psychiatrists, physical therapists, and cardiovascular specialists. As a senior patient’s primary healthcare provider, geriatric doctors will create a comprehensive health plan that also includes collating and disseminating pertinent patient information to other medical experts.
4. How to Find Geriatricians?
The two main ways to find a geriatric doctor near you are either to consult with your current primary physician or to look into your Medicare Plan’s network of doctors. For the former, you simply have to ask your physician for a geriatric recommendation. Most likely, they’ll refer you to someone within the same hospital or practice. And if your primary physician deems the consultation medically necessary, it will be covered by your Original Medicare Plan. For the latter, KelseyCare Advantage expounds that there are Medicare Advantage providers who have in-network geriatricians. In this case, a patient simply has to book an appointment with the geriatric doctor of their choice. This eliminates the need for consultation fees or prior referrals.
5. The Takeaway
Transitioning to the care of a geriatrician is a natural part of life. Thanks to their expansive experience, geriatric doctors can significantly improve life for a senior, their caregiver, and their loved ones. For more guides on doctors, medical procedures, and overall wellness, please check out the blog at Healthiermn.