July 14, 2024

Wellness Nest

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Specialists in Aging: Do You Need a Geriatrician?

2 min read

When your children were little, you probably took them to a pediatrician.
After all, babies and children have specialized needs that differ from
those of adults.

On the other end of the spectrum, older adults often have different medical
concerns than they had in their 30s or 40s. Yet many people have no idea
that there are specialists just for seniors.

“Geriatricians specialize in the healthcare needs of people who are aging,” says Johns Hopkins geriatrician Samuel C. Durso, M.D. “As we get older, our bodies change. The kinds of conditions we have and how those conditions interact with each other differs from what adults under the age of 60 typically experience.”

Why Geriatricians are Important

Geriatricians are primary care doctors who have additional specialized training in treating older patients. They can practice in outpatient settings, nursing facilities or hospitals.

Geriatricians often work as part of a treatment team with other primary care providers, focusing on helping older patients who have multiple health problems or complex conditions. “The role of the geriatrician is to coordinate overall care with other physicians and guide the patient in making treatment choices,” says Durso.

There’s no right age to start seeing a geriatric specialist, according to Johns Hopkins geriatrician Michele Bellantoni, M.D. A geriatrician can be helpful if you:

  • Suffer from multiple medical conditions
  • Find that treatment for one medical condition negatively affects a second condition
  • Are experiencing functional decline or physical frailty
  • Have a disease associated with aging, such as dementia, incontinence or osteoporosis
  • Manage multiple medications (especially if they’re causing side effects that interfere with your well-being)

How Can a Geriatrician Help Me?

Geriatricians are experts in seeing the big picture, Bellantoni notes. Many older adults, for instance, take multiple medications to treat a number of conditions. Geriatricians are well-versed in drug side effects and the negative effects that may occur from taking multiple drugs. They can help prioritize which drugs are necessary and which can be skipped.

“Often, the geriatrician will not treat every active medical condition with a medication,” Bellantoni says. “We prioritize the conditions and medications to maximize the patient’s physical functioning and well-being.”

Another benefit of geriatricians is time, explains Bellantoni. Geriatrics practices usually schedule longer appointments to make sure that older adults have enough time to discuss all of their medical concerns with their doctors.

“Those who are trained in geriatric medicine are superb primary care providers, focusing on wellness and preventive health as well as managing chronic medical conditions,” Bellantoni says.

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