When people get older, their medical needs change and become more complex. Mobility may become limited, organs may start to fail and minor health problems can lead to more complicated medical issues. And in many cases, elderly patients are taking more than one prescription medication on a daily basis
What is Geriatrics?
Geriatrics is the subspecialty of internal medicine concerned with the health and well-being of older adults. Geriatricians must complete seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training and become board certified in Internal Medicine. Then, for an additional year they study conditions specific to aging, including geriatric assessment and rehabilitation, preventive medicine, management of patients in long-term care settings, and psycho-social, ethical, legal, and economic issues pertinent to geriatric patients.
What geriatricians do
Geriatricians diagnose, treat and manage diseases and conditions that require a special approach when dealing with older adults. They give special attention to situations of special concern, including falls, incontinence, preoperative assessment and post-operative management, cerebrovascular disease, dementia, sensory impairment and other cognitive and affective changes that occur with aging.
When you need a geriatrician
Geriatricians often become the primary physician for older adults. If this is not the case, your primary physician might refer you to a geriatrician when a problem associated with aging requires special attention. In some cases, a family member might recognize a need for a geriatrician and suggest you consult one.
How geriatricians work with other physicians
If geriatricians are not serving as your primary care physician, they often work with other physicians, advising them about a specific diagnosis or treatment plan. More often, geriatricians act as primary care physicians, relying on many skilled professionals and other subspecialists of internal medicine, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacists, and social workers.