As our bodies age, they begin to show the wear and tear of decades of everyday life. Although some conditions are linked to alcohol or tobacco use, others happen automatically or are caused by genetics. Everyone ages slightly differently and may require specialized care from cardiologists. Physical therapists, and many more healthcare professionals in order to maintain their quality of life.
Geriatricians specialize in treating elderly patients and have advanced training and knowledge of how aging affects the human body. While primary care doctors can often manage elderly patients with support from specialists, a geriatrician can clearly track and identify how different conditions appear and interact with each other in an elderly patient. There are three key reasons why elderly patients need geriatricians. Especially once they start dealing with multiple ailments or symptoms that affect their quality of life.
Although some patients are perfectly healthy at the age of 60 or 70, others develop a long list of conditions. Primary care doctors may struggle to keep track of a patient’s health conditions and the way they interact with one another. Geriatricians specialize in the conditions that are related to aging but are also knowledgeable about more common ailments that can affect elderly patients differently.
A geriatrician’s specialized knowledge of elderly health conditions is valuable for correctly identifying the cause of various symptoms. For example, a patient may report dizziness, which could be caused by low blood sugar, low blood pressure, a medication, or something else. In the case of a patient with multiple preexisting conditions, determining the root cause requires specialized detective work that geriatricians are well-equipped to do.
Geriatricians are also more experienced and knowledgeable in working with patients who have difficulties remembering or hearing. They can train patients on how to cope with these conditions, even when medication can’t help. Patients with severe memory difficulties may even struggle to communicate their symptoms to physicians. Geriatricians can help them sort out what they’re experiencing.
With multiple conditions also comes the potential for numerous medications and long lists of side effects. Medications can interact with each other in potentially deadly ways. While all physicians should be able to identify the worst potential interactions, geriatricians can identify the more subtle ones. A geriatrician can change a prescription to a more appropriate dosage or change the medication entirely to avoid these interactions.
Even medications without dangerous interactions may need to be changed. Elderly patients’ bodies break down medication differently as they age. So the best dosage for them may be lower than it was in the past. If a patient suddenly begins showing side effects from a medication that worked well for them previously, a geriatrician can identify the root cause more quickly than other specialists.
Although geriatricians may prescribe new medications to patients who need them. They may sometimes elect to stop treating a condition with medication. Balancing a patient’s health and quality of life is a key part of a geriatrician’s job. They can identify if a patient’s current medication is causing more side effects than it’s worth.
While primary care doctors and other physicians can manage patients with multiple conditions and medications, elderly patients are a particularly at-risk population. Dizziness caused by medication can easily cause a fall that lands the patient in the hospital. For example: a broken hip or another major injury can be catastrophic for patients whose bodies no longer heal as well as they used to.
Having another specialist to communicate with may seem like a hassle, it’s well worth bringing a geriatrician on board. Small issues, like forgetting to take supplements for bone strength, can snowball into significant problems far too quickly for elderly patients. A geriatrician can identify and communicate those risks to the patient and other physicians, minimizing the chances of a tragic oversight.
Geriatricians are especially crucial for patients who have already been hospitalized. People who consult with a geriatrician before and after release can get specialized advice that maximizes their chances of a successful recovery. In some cases, a geriatrician can create a recovery plan that avoids inpatient rehabilitation or moving to a nursing home. Helping patients maintain their dignity and independence for as long as possible.
Elderly patients may have a long relationship with their current physicians. In some cases, will be reluctant to begin seeing an additional specialist. Healthcare providers should encourage patients to try having their own geriatric care appointments to make communication clearer and more direct. Since geriatric care appointments are typically longer than regular appointments. Patients have ample time to discuss their conditions and health concerns with the geriatrician.
Some nursing homes have their own geriatrician on staff. This is a great starting point for patients who are already living in a nursing home. Others may need to go to an office that’s separate from their current appointment. Which can be a challenge for patients who can no longer drive. Still, a geriatrician’s help is priceless for patients who are struggling to maintain their quality of life while managing multiple conditions or medications.
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