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Geriatrician vs. All-Ages Doctor: Why Seniors Benefit from Clinics with Geriatric Care

Senior man speaking with geriatrician.

Finding the right doctor is important at any age, but as you get older, it can be even more essential to find a physician who understands the unique challenges posed by the aging process. Geriatricians, doctors who specialize in caring for people 65 and older, can play a significant role in supporting successful aging.

What Is a Geriatrician?

Internal or family medicine doctors tend to care for patients between the ages of 30 and 60, and while they can address the needs of older patients, they’re often not as well versed in the health conditions that typically arise with age. Geriatricians, on the other hand, are internal or family medicine doctors who have additional training in the treatment of older patients. Because of their specialized training, geriatricians have expertise in treating the issues that often arise with age, such as hearing and vision loss, osteoporosis, balance issues, frailty and incontinence. They also understand geriatric syndromes, which are issues such as frequent falls that may have more than one cause or involve multiple physiological systems.

When to See a Geriatrician

You don’t have to find a geriatrician the minute you turn 65, especially if you already have a physician you like and trust, and you’re continuing to enjoy good health. But there are situations in which the in-depth knowledge geriatricians offer can make an important difference in older adults’ well-being and quality of life. Consider consulting a geriatrician when:

  • You’re having mobility issues. Millions of older people fall every year, but less than half tell their doctor. Unfortunately, falls can result in serious injury or instill a fear of falling again, which can cause older adults to restrict their everyday activities. If you’ve had a fall, or are finding it difficult to walk up stairs or keep your balance, a geriatrician can help diagnose and address the underlying cause. They might assess your gait and balance, review medications, suggest exercises, or recommend physical therapy to help you regain mobility and maintain independence longer.
  • You’re taking multiple medications. As older adults begin to experience more health problems, they may have an uptick in the number of prescription drugs they’re taking. Approximately 36% of older adults take at least five different drugs. Drug interactions can sometimes produce unhealthy side effects. What’s more, older adults are more vulnerable to drug side effects and may need to take smaller doses than younger people. A geriatrician can review your medications to see which are truly helpful, whether there’s a risk of harmful interactions, and whether you’re taking an appropriate dosage.
  • You’re experiencing memory loss. Cognitive issues like memory loss can have numerous causes, including depression, infection, medication side effects, or conditions such as dementia. A geriatrician can help pinpoint the cause of memory loss and develop strategies for addressing it.
  • You’re planning to undergo surgery. Having a geriatrician to help coordinate care before surgery can lead to better patient outcomes. According to one study, older adults with a pre-surgery assessment team that included health professionals from geriatrics, surgery and anesthesia had shorter hospital stays, lower readmission rates, and fewer complications than participants in the control group who were younger and had fewer chronic conditions.
  • Family members are experiencing caregiver stress. If health setbacks are creating strain for family caregivers, a geriatrician can help identify healthcare priorities, develop a care plan, and coordinate care with healthcare providers.

Choosing a Geriatrician

If you think you or an older loved one would benefit from the expertise a geriatrician offers, here are some guidelines for choosing the right geriatric doctor:

  • Ask for referrals. Friends, family, neighbors, and your regular primary care doctor may have recommendations regarding geriatricians in your area.
  • Keep gender in mind. Aging can affect women and men differently, so it’s important to choose a geriatrician who has experience and training in gender-specific issues. Also, keep in mind that, as with any other physician, you’ll likely be discussing conditions that are personal, so you’ll want to choose a geriatrician with whom you feel comfortable.
  • Consider rapport. After an initial appointment with a geriatrician, think about how well they communicated with you. Did you feel comfortable asking questions? Did you feel they were attentive and spent enough time with you? You’ll want to choose a geriatrician who seems caring, engaged, and respects your point of view.

Geriatric Care at Fellowship Medical Group

Older adults in Basking Ridge and Denville, NJ, can find the geriatric care they need at Fellowship Medical Group. Our team of doctors, nurse practitioners, and specialists offer comprehensive care, bringing years of experience to the management and treatment of the unique challenges older adults face. Learn more about our Basking Ridge or Denville locations. Or call 908-580-3822 to make an appointment.