Due to improvements in medical care, nutrition and advances in technology, the number of people in the United States over the age of 65 is larger than ever before. By 2050, the 65 and older population is projected to be close to 87 million. The 75 and older population is projected to be close to 49 million and the number of people age 85 and older is projected to increase to 7.3 million in 2020. Source: Alliance for Aging Research
This growing population often has special medical concerns and needs that require special attention and treatment.
A geriatric physician, also called a geriatrician, is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease and disability in older adults. Geriatric physicians are primary care doctors who are specially trained in the aging process. Physicians must be board certified in family practice or internal medicine prior to attaining certification in Geriatrics.
After completion of an accredited geriatrician training program, physicians receive a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ). Nurses and other healthcare professionals are eligible to take courses to become certified in geriatric care. Training and certification programs focus on a wide array of procedures, and prepare physicians to treat aging and elderly population. Physicians must also have at least two to four years working in Geriatric care to receive certification.
Geriatric physicians are concerned with health problems that frequently affect older adults, such as pain, falls, memory loss, incontinence (involuntary loss of urine), and medication side effects. Another important aspect of geriatric medicine is evaluating an elderly patient's ability to care for him- or herself (e.g., prepare and eat meals, bathe, dress).
Primary care physicians (e.g., general practitioners, family practitioners, internists) may provide medical care for elderly patients who do not have serious health concerns. However, when an older adult experiences physical, mental, or emotional illnesses or disabilities that lead to a dependence on assistance from others, or when his or her condition causes stress on caregivers (e.g., family members and friends), a geriatric physician should be consulted.
Geriatric physicians focus on all aspects of health care and work as part of a health care team to address issues that affect the elderly. Medical professionals who work with geriatricians include nurses, social workers, nutritionists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and geriatric psychiatrists. The geriatric health care team focuses on many aspects of the patient's life, including his or her social support (e.g., spouse, children, other relatives), living conditions and home life, and community.
When we are children we go the pediatrician, as young adults family practice physicians are called upon, and as we reach middle age we tend to seek out physicians who specialize in Internal medicine. So doesn't it make perfect sense that as we (and our parents) age that the next practical step would be seek out a geriatric physician? Find a Geriatric Physician.
Cheryl Culbertson, Founder, Elder Options of Texas an online site for finding Texas senior services and elder care resources for adults 55+ and their elder loved ones.