May 21st, 2012 at 9:21 am
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Geriatricians specially trained to deal with elder health issues

by Dorian Martin

As my parents aged, they began to purposefully seek out a geriatrician as their primary care physician, starting in the late 1990s. Mom’s no longer with us, but my father, who is now in his mid-80s, still goes to this type of doctor (albeit a different one). I asked Dad why he continues to opt for a geriatrician. “I think these doctors may be more up-to-date in their knowledge of procedures and medications and their effect on older people,” Dad explained.

Geriatricians provide special elder care

So what is a geriatrician? HealthinAging.com reports that this type of physician is a medical doctor who has special training to deal with the multiple health issues that older adults often face. For instance, my dad has worked with his geriatricians during the past 15 years to deal with a wide range of health issues, including high blood pressure, edema, hip replacement surgery, carotid artery surgery, chronic back pain, mild depression and pre-diabetes.

Geriatricians are normally primary care physicians who have been board-certified in Geriatrics or Family Practice and completed additional training to earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatric Medicine. HealthinAging.com reports that the United States has more than 7,000 geriatricians, several hundred osteopathic physicians who have obtained geriatric certification and 1,750 board-certified gero-psychiatrists.

HealthinAging.com encourages an elderly person and/or their family to consult with a geriatrician when the elderly person is over the age of 75 and faces impairment and frailty. A geriatrician also can be very helpful in providing counsel to family members and friends who are dealing with the stress of caregiving.

Medical personnel who work in geriatrics often takes a team approach. This team may include members with advanced training, including nurses, pharmacists and physical therapists. Other members can include a social worker, a nutritionist, an occupational therapist and a geriatric psychiatrist. Using a holistic approach, the geriatric team takes into account the elder’s personal health history and current condition in order to make decisions. This team also evaluates what type of social support is available to the elder as well as the elder’s living conditions. The ability of the elder to handle daily activities — such as bathing, dressing and eating — also are addressed by the team in developing recommendations.

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