Geriatric medicine, or geriatrics, is a sub-specialty of internal medicine that focuses on the care and wellbeing of elderly people. Most of us will require some form of specialized medical care in our later years, and a geriatrician can help to coordinate that care.
There are distinct differences between the younger adult body and the elderly body. As the human body ages, it begins to lose its physiological reserve, or the ability to cope with and recover from stressors. As physiological reserve diminishes, the body becomes more susceptible to certain chronic diseases. Geriatric medicine exists to help prevent and treat disease in the elderly, and to preserve and prolong quality of life during one’s senior years.
Geriatricians can serve a variety of roles within the healthcare system, including hospital care, long-term care, home care, and terminal care. They often work closely with specialists, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and social workers.
Geriatric Medical Training
In addition to their primary care physician training, geriatricians receive extensive training specific to the aging process. This training provides them with expertise on the impact of aging on illness patterns, health maintenance, rehabilitation, and medication management.
In order to become board certified in geriatric medicine, a doctor must first have been board certified in internal medicine. They must also complete accredited graduate medical education fellowship training and pass the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam. A complete list of requirements is available on the American Board of Internal Medicine website.
When should I start visiting a geriatrician?
The answer to this question is different for everyone. For most people, the best time to start visiting a geriatrician is when they begin to require care from multiple specialists. The overlap of symptoms from multiple conditions, along with a depleting physiological reserve, can cause many complications as you get older. A geriatrician can help to coordinate your care and your medications to help minimize the effect of these complications, or possibly avoid them altogether.
At MetroHealth, most of our patients are insured through Medicare. They range in age from around 65 into the 100’s. The average age of our patients is about 73.
Benefits of seeing a geriatrician
There are a number of benefits to seeing a geriatrician instead of a regular family physician or internist. Most important is the knowledge that geriatricians have about the aging process. Just as a pediatrician specializes in the treatment of the pre-adult body, a geriatrician specializes in the treatment of the elderly body.
Geriatricians also have extensive knowledge of drug interaction and medication management. They understand how different medications work and how they will affect each other in your daily life, and can coordinate with other prescribing physicians accordingly.
A geriatrician can help you make critical decisions when it comes to the management of your health care. They can also make recommendations to their network of preferred elder care professionals that you can trust. The greatest benefit of visiting a geriatrician is their ability to help you maintain the best possible quality of life so that your elder years can be spent comfortably enjoying your loved ones.