What geriatricians do

Geriatricians are physicians who specialize in the care of older adults. These doctors treat diseases, conditions and other health concerns that affect the elderly, helping their patients maintain independence and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations.

Visits tend to be longer and more in-depth allowing doctors to address a range of health concerns. Trained as internal medicine doctors, geriatricians must complete seven or more years of medical education and postgraduate training then spend another year of study focused on health issues related to aging. Their training allows geriatricians to differentiate between the normal aging process and potential health concerns. For example, for a patient experiencing memory issues, a geriatric doctor may be able to determine if those issues are disease-related.

Geriatrics, which focuses on the elderly population and diseases that affect this population, differs from gerontology, which focuses on the social, psychological and biological aspects of the aging process.

Related: Guide to Internal Medicine

Other options for geriatric patients

Geriatric doctors work with the elderly population to address the health issues that affect them, from impaired vision, hearing loss and incontinence to instability and serious consequences associated with a fall.

In addition, families of older individuals facing ongoing health challenges may get help with practical concerns from geriatric care managers. As defined by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, GCMs are health and human services specialists who serve as an advocate for families caring for older relatives or disabled adults. They provide guidance to address quality of life issues, from giving input on housing options to facilitating communication with doctors and supervising bill-paying.

Along with providing referrals for patients who need additional care, geriatricians should be familiar with geriatric care management and other resources available to improve quality of life for older patients and their families.

Choosing a geriatric specialist

Elderly patients need to find a specialist who understands geriatric ailments and is experienced in helping them. For example, certain medications are not generally recommended for the elderly, or these medications may have special dosing standards. Geriatricians know this information and can prescribe accordingly, as well as providing advice to help patients manage a myriad of medications.

Related: Prescription Overload?

Certain illnesses like influenza and pneumonia affect the geriatric population more intensely than younger generations and are far more serious. Geriatric doctors can help with these types of issues as well.

If you know that you'll need the services of a geriatric doctor, contact your health insurance company to make sure that this medical specialty is covered. However, be aware that a shortage in geriatricians may affect your ability to see a geriatrician on short notice. Talk with your primary care doctor about your best options, should you need more immediate care.

The rapport between an elderly patient and his or her doctor is crucial to ensuring effective care, so carefully research the doctors you are considering. Verify their qualifications, education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals and check out reviews on Angie's List.

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Angi Workman

Subject: Geriatric specialist

There are differences in medical providers and care managers, how do you distinguish between the two for caregivers to understand? I am confused already from the above summary given. Most physicians do not assist in the resource aspect of what is a available within ones community to support the aging adult after a medical crisis. Geriatric Care Managers and/ or Case Managers do have a variety of resource information to assist with this area of need. As for a Medical Practitioners' knowledge are a more factual based element that the aging adult need to be served by a medical based facility after a medical crisis in the aging senior's incapacity. The concepts of who helps with what elder care needs are very complex and I would like to know where you would send someone in need on this topic?
Thank you for your time in advance for clarifying this matter,
Angi Workman

Hugh Vandivier
Hugh Vandivier

Subject: Geriatric Care Managers

Angi,

Thank you so much for your comment. Our intent is to make a page such as this as robust and informative as possible, especially for a topic that causes so much confusion with care givers trying to find information and assistance for their loved ones. I found an article we published, specifically on geriatric care managers, which I hope will be of help. I've also added a definition of geriatric care manager to the page.

Also, as our topic areas continually expand, we just recently added Geriatric Care Managers to our list of topic areas. We recommend logging into Angie's List and searching geriatrics to find reviews from other members who have been experienced the same issues with their loved ones.

Please let us know if you have any further questions. 

Hugh Vandivier

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