Geriatricians are doctors who, in addition to practicing family medicine or internal medicine, have specialized training in the health issues of aging adults. Think of the geriatrician as a physician who can help catch a problem, before it rages out of control, and sometimes can prevent a health issue from happening. If you want to enjoy the best possible health and well-being as you get older, you should consider the benefits of going to a geriatrician.
You can use a geriatrician as an occasional specialist or in place of your primary care provider. Most people over the age of 65 do not need regular care from a geriatrician, but an occasional consultation would not hurt, in order to stay at peak health. About 30% of people over 65 should visit a geriatrician for one or more of the following reasons:
They are not getting around on foot as well as they used to. Some people in their 80s are still running marathons, but others have trouble walking or don’t feel as stable as they once did. A geriatrician can evaluate your gait and balance. The doctor can also suggest exercises you can do at home to improve your balance and strength. The geriatrician might send you to a physical therapist or occupational therapist to assess your risk of falling.
The goal is to prevent you from experiencing a fall. Nothing injures older adults more than falls, and far too many of these injuries result in death to the senior. If you lose your mobility, you are likely to lose your independence and your ability to continue living in your home. Getting a balance and gait assessment from a geriatrician, can help to prevent this outcome.
Getting back on your feet after hospitalization
If you end up in the hospital for a traumatic injury, getting a consultation with a geriatric specialist before you go home, is likely to improve your ability to resume your typical daily activities. From self-care to handling your money to going grocery shopping, you will be far ahead of people who did not meet with the geriatrician before getting discharged from the hospital.
Having memory issues
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a precursor to several conditions, including depression and dementia. Without specialized training, your primary care physician might overlook MCI. Most older people who probably have dementia, either do not realize they have it or their doctor has not yet diagnosed it. When you become aware of MCI, you can take steps to manage it, so that you can retain your independence as long as possible.
Taking prescription drugs or supplements
Sometimes people feel groggy or confused and assume that they have Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. However, in reality, a medication or supplement is causing them to feel that way. Seniors often have several healthcare providers. These doctors do not always talk to each other, before prescribing medications. As a result, some older adults are on six, eight, or 10 or more drugs, which can interact with each other. A geriatrician can assess all of your medications and eliminate unnecessary ones or substitute better options for drugs that are causing you problems.
AARP. “When It’s Time to See a Geriatrician.” (accessed March 21, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2019/geriatrics-specialist.html