Geriatricians have the knowledge and experience to help senior citizens stay healthy and active. If you or your loved one is aged 60+, then you should seriously consider using a geriatrician to monitor and help you. The geriatrician can work with your primary care provider.
According to the American Geriatrics Society. (AGA), currently only 30% of American seniors are seeing a geriatrician.
Geriatricians: What Is It They do?
They specialize in the care of people with multiple chronic medical conditions that impair their day-to-day functioning and quality of life. And so the reason for using this specialist is not determined by just age.
For example, a a 65-year-old with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes may benefit, but not so a 80-year-old who walks five miles a day.
Many of these doctors work as a team that also includes a social worker, hearing specialist, and nutritionist. Some teams even include a physical and occupational therapist.
Indeed, keep your primary care doctor for day-to-day matters. Research studies show that seniors who see a geriatrician are less likely to end up in the hospital. This is so because their training guides them to look for symptoms that are specific to senior citizens.
Geriatricians: How Do I Know If I Need One?
That’s a great question. Here are four signs per the AGA that may signal a visit may help you.
- Taking multiple medications. More than 33% of seniors age 62+ are taking at least five prescription drugs. Over 60 percent also take herbal or dietary supplements. All of these meds taken together usually leads to bad side affects. Simply put, the older you get, the more difficult it is to metabolize and clear medicines from your body. Drug interactions can also cause problems. A geriatrician will screen your meds and eliminate the trouble makers.
- Memory Fails. Studies by Johns Hopkins Hospital show that 60% of seniors aged 65 + have undiagnosed dementia or are unaware they have this problem. A geriatrician can screen you for mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a precursor to dementia, as well as for depression, which can be more subtle in older adults.
- Mobility declining. You’re becoming more unsteady on your feet and have increasing trouble getting around. A geriatrician assesses your balance and gait. Falls are the leading cause of injuries and death among seniors according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The geriatrician will give you balance-strengthening exercises to do at home and/or prescribe a course of physical therapy. A physical therapist and/or occupational therapist can come to your home to do a fall-risk evaluation. All these steps will help keep you independent and with a better quality of life.
- If you’re hospitalized. Research shows that seniors who get geriatric care in the hospital do better once they’re discharged. For example, seniors who received a geriatric consult while hospitalized for a broken rib, head injury, or fracture, resumed about two-thirds more of their daily activities.