Introduction to Geriatrics

The average age in the United States continues to move upwards as more baby boomers move toward retirement age. According to the New York Times, people over the age of 65 represented just over eight percent of the total population of the United States in 1950. This percentage has steadily increased over time, and people over the age of 65 now represent 13 percent of the population. The aging of the population presents issues regarding the care of older generations.

What is geriatrics?

The American Medical Student Association explains that geriatrics is a branch of medicine that is specifically concerned with the needs of elderly patients. A variety of medical professionals are considered part of geriatrics. Elderly patients may require the assistance of physicians, nurses, physical therapists and psychologists to maintain quality of life.

Why is the care of older generations an important issue in the United States?

The aging of the population as a whole is expected to continue in the future. It is projected that over 21 percent of the population will be over the age of 65 by the year 2050. The country may not be properly prepared to care for a large concentration of elderly people at one time.

Being prepared to care for the elderly is important as a higher concentration of the population becomes composed of those over the age of 65. Specialized medical care for physical and mental issues can ensure that the quality of life for the elderly is preserved as much as possible.

Are there medical professionals that specialize in the treatment of the elderly?

Geriatricians are physicians that specialize in the treatment of elderly patients. They are medical doctors who have taken specialized courses after completing a residency. These courses allow geriatricians to be better prepared to care for the specific needs of the elderly.

The length of training for geriatricians typically lasts one to two years beyond a general residency.

Do I need a geriatrician?

Some people may be able to continue seeing a general practitioner. However, you may want to seek medical care from a geriatrician if you are dealing with medical problems that are specifically related to aging.

ElderCare Online recommends that a person seek the assistance of a geriatrician when dealing with several health problems at the same time. Many elderly people find that they must consult a variety of specialists because of a number of different ailments that are associated with aging. A geriatrician often has the knowledge needed to facilitate communication between different specialists. You will receive general care from one physician who is aware of all of your ailments. The geriatrician will be sure to keep in regular contact with any specialists you see to make sure that you are receiving proper care for all of your medical conditions.

There is no set age for requiring the assistance of a geriatrician. It is a personal decision that you can make based on how many health issues you are facing on a regular basis. Even if you are facing several medical problems at the same time, you may not need a geriatrician if you are satisfied with the care that you are currently receiving. The decision to seek the assistance of a geriatrician is based on personal preference and comfort with your medical care.

How can I convince my elderly family member to seek care from a geriatrician?

You may be caring for an elderly family member who does not believe that a geriatrician is necessary. Some elderly people are unwilling to admit that they need the assistance of a medical professional who specializes in the treatment of elderly patients.

Before you try to talk your elderly family member into seeking care from a geriatrician, determine whether or not the help of a geriatrician is truly necessary. Factors to consider include how many specialists your family member sees and whether or not your family member is satisfied with the current level of care. Also consider whether there have been issues with coordinating your family member’s treatments because of miscommunication among specialists.

If you determine that your family member does need a geriatrician, understand the reasons behind any resistance that you may encounter. The Mayo Clinic notes that many elderly people become frustrated when they realize that they are not as physically or mentally fit as they once were. There may be guilt or anger associated with the need for specialized medical care. Some elderly patients are worried about how much geriatric care will cost.

It is important to sit down with your elderly family member to discuss medical care. Take their personal preferences regarding medical care into consideration. Do not lecture your family member or imply that they are not able to help make this decision. If you know that your elderly family member values the opinion of a friend or another family member, ask that person to help you explain options.

It is common for people to face resistance when discussing medical care with an elderly family member. The best thing you can do is to remain calm and postpone discussions if you find that you are unsuccessful at first.

Geriatric care may be the best solution for you or a family member. Elderly patients often have unique and varied needs that require the attention of several specialists. A geriatrician understands these needs and can facilitate communication among specialists to make sure elderly patients receive the best care possible.