May is Older Americans Month and Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital understands the importance of finding the right doctor for your health care needs. Sick children see a pediatrician. People who have cancer go to an oncologist. Those with shoulder pain could be referred to an orthopedic specialist. When the elderly are ill, they may benefit from seeing a geriatrician. A geriatrician is a physician who specializes in caring for older adults. They typically are board certified in internal medicine or family practice and have completed additional training to address the specific health needs of seniors.
“Not all people over 65 need to see a geriatrician,” explains Rebecca Whitelaw, Senior Services Liaison for Cy-Fair Hospital. “Health, not age, determines when to use this type of doctor.” Seniors in good health can continue to see their internist or family doctor. However, people with multiple chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, memory problems, stroke, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and vision or hearing loss, can benefit from a geriatrician’s expertise. That is because these physicians treat more than just physical ailments. “Geriatricians also evaluate the patient’s emotional health, social and family networks, lifestyle, community involvement, and entire medical history to help patients live as healthy and independent a lifestyle as possible,” says Whitelaw.
Geriatricians care for patients who are at risk for age-related problems, such as falls, incontinence, chronic pain, memory loss, confusion, arthritis, mobility issues, and medicine side-effects. “They are knowledgeable about managing multiple disease symptoms and often serve as the coordinator for a health care team,” explains Whitelaw. The health care team might include medical specialists as well as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, nurse, psychiatrist, nutritionist, pharmacist, and social worker who work together to ensure the patient’s optimal well-being.
Patients who may benefit from seeing a geriatrician are those who:
· Have multiple health problems and are over the age of 85
· Fall frequently
· Do not have a strong social network
· Need end-of-life care
· Have severe memory loss
· Have difficulty performing activities of daily living
· Require monitoring for medications
· Are a senior in frail health
For more information about seeing a geriatrician, call 800-681-2733 for a free referral to a specialist in your area. Visit www.CyFairSeniors.com for health tips during Older Americans Month.