Upon reaching the age of 65, many begin to wonder when is the right time to switch from regular visits with their primary care physicians to visiting a geriatrician. There’s no right answer, and for some, the switch may never be needed. However, if you or a loved one feel that the burden of care has become great, having a health care provider who is specially trained to care for aging populations and respond to their particular needs can really help take some pressure off and give peace of mind.
But what is a geriatrician? A geriatrician is an internal medicine physician who specializes in the care and unique needs of an aging population, typically 65 years of age and older. These physicians (unlike primary care physicians) will be better equipped to diagnose age-related conditions and disorders. They are also in a unique position to offer services like end-of-life counseling, something a primary care physician may or may not be comfortable discussing. A geriatrician can also be called upon to assess the living needs of the individual – is this person well-enough equipped to live in their own home and receive care there, or is a move to an assisted living facility in order? These are the questions a geriatrician can better help you answer.
Aging alone does not necessarily warrant a visit to the geriatrician. If you or a loved one are past the age of 65 but are well in control of your overall care, are still in generally good health, have a good and open relationship with current health care providers, and do not feel overwhelmed with the burden of too many medications, a visit to the geriatrician may not be needed. However, should you or your loved one find yourself in any of the following situations, finding a geriatrician might be a good next step:
You’re dealing with a particular age-related health issue. Things like Parkinson’s Disease, falls, arthritis, memory loss, frequent urination or incontinence are all things that a primary care physician can help with, but that a geriatrician is particularly trained to help with. Geriatricians will also pay very particular attention to areas that they know can deteriorate with age, like blood pressure, cholesterol, bone density, weight, hearing, vision, and overall mood/mental health.
You struggle with polypharmacy (taking too many pills at once). As we age, the number of daily medications that we need to keep ourselves healthy tends to grow. Sometimes it can be hard to keep all of your medications straight, especially if they’re prescribed by multiple different care providers (who may or may not be working in consultation with each other). A geriatrician is specially trained to deal with polypharmacy and will make sure that you’re staying on top of your medications, that your medications will not interact negatively with each other, and will be able to make recommendations if there are ways to reduce pill volume.
You’re ready to have some more serious conversations with a health care provider. Sometimes for things like urinary incontinence, frequent urination or other more intimate topics, it’s easier to talk to a geriatrician who is trained to deal with these issues than to discuss them with your primary care physician, however understanding and capable they might be. Further, for issues like end-of-life planning, a primary care physician may not be able to offer the same information and guidance that a geriatrician would. For these delicate and sensitive questions, you really need to seek advice from a care provider who’s trained to give you the best advice and support available.
It’s not always easy to know when to see a geriatrician, but one person is there to help you make the decision: your dedicated in-home care provider! Caregivers like the talented and trained folks at Angels on Call are an essential part of your care team and are here and able to help you make these critical decisions. So talk to your care provider or reach out to Angels on Call today so that you can start discussing these important aspects of your care plan.