Geriatricians are doctors who specialize in caring for older adults. Often, they work in conjunction with a team of other health providers. They are experts at treating older patients with multiple health conditions. They also prevent and treat health problems that more commonly occur in old age, like dementia and bladder issues.
There is no age cut off for when a patient should see a geriatrician. A 65-year-old with many diagnoses would likely benefit from a geriatrician’s care, while a healthy and active 88-year-old may not.
Here are some signs that it may be time to see a geriatrician.
You Aren’t Satisfied With Your Current Health Care
Geriatricians treat the whole patient, including their mental, physical, and emotional health. Unlike many other specialists, the goal of geriatricians is not focused on treating a single disease. Instead, they focus on improving a patient’s quality of life.
If your medical care hasn’t led to the improvements you’d expect, it’s worth setting up an appointment with a geriatrician.
A geriatrician may assess your level of functioning, discuss your mood and symptoms, and your current supports. A geriatrician will also typically review your medications and recommend changes. They may involve nutritionists, physiotherapists, and others to optimize your health.
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You Are Suffering From Medication Side Effects
Because older adults metabolize medications differently, you may need lower doses of the medication you currently take. In addition, certain medications that are helpful for younger people can be dangerous for seniors. For example, certain antidepressants can put elderly people at risk of falls and delirium.
Geriatricians are experts in how medications affect older adults. They also understand how multiple medications interact in older adults.
Geriatricians will often change dosages or prescribe alternatives. Sometimes they will even reduce the number of medications you take to reduce side effects and drug interactions.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association showed the benefits of this process. The study found that reducing medications reduced falls and lowered the risk of death in elderly patients.
You Have One or More Age-Related Health Issues
Geriatricians treat health problems that are common in old age. These problems include poor mobility, dementia, depression and falls. Geriatricians can prescribe medications as well as refer patients to people who provide non-drug therapies. Examples include music therapy, physiotherapy, or social programs in the community.
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You’re Wondering If You Should Continue to Live at Home
A geriatrician can evaluate your living situation and social supports. They can help you determine what changes may be necessary to allow you to continue living at home.
A geriatrician can also research and recommend options for you. One option might be having an in-home caregiver visit you to assist with meals and other personal needs. Other options are an assisted-living facility or a nursing home with 24/7 medical care.
You Are Hospitalized
Though often necessary, a hospital stay can lead to other problems, such as delirium or mobility issues. These hospital-acquired issues are much more likely to occur in older adults.
A geriatrician can help a hospitalized older patient in many ways. They can adjust your medications. They can also recommend changes to your care schedule. This helps to prevent complications that result from hospitalization.
Finally, geriatricians can help patients return home without an interruption in care. They can visit patients in their homes to ensure they are continuing with the medications prescribed in the hospital. They can also help connect patients with rehabilitation care and other support services. That way, this additional care is in place before the patient leaves the hospital.
A 2017 review published by the British Geriatrics Society looked at the impact of geriatricians. They found patients seen by a geriatrician in the hospital had fewer complications.
Call the Benedum Geriatric Center at 412-692-4200 or the Senior Care Institute at 412-623-2700 to be connected to a geriatrician who can assist with your health care needs.
Age Ageing. Effectiveness of In-Hospital Geriatric Co-Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. British Geriatrics Society. Link
Marlene Cimons. Will you really need a geriatrician when you're 65? Washington Post. Link
Health in Aging. A Guide To Geriatric Syndromes: Common And Often Related Medical Conditions In Older Adults. Link
Health in Aging. Medications work differently in older adults. American Geriatric Society. Link
Journal of the American Medical Directors Association Health Outcomes of Deprescribing Interventions Among Older Residents in Nursing Homes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Link
University of Pittsburgh. Division of Geriatric Medicine. Link
UPMC. Division of Geriatrics. Link
UptoDate. Geriatric Health Maintenance. Link
The UPMC Division of Geriatrics is nationally recognized for its expertise in treating older adults. Our multidisciplinary team diagnoses and treats a wide variety of conditions affecting seniors, including medical, physical, cognitive, psychological, and social. Our hope is to provide the best care in people’s later years. We can help on an inpatient or outpatient basis, for short-term or long-term conditions. The John A. Hartford Foundation designates us as a National Center of Excellence in Geriatric Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as among the nation’s best hospitals for geriatric care.