Geriatric Physicians focus specifically on the health and medical care of Seniors. They have specific knowledge in facilitating the best quality of life for a senior. Because they understand the health challenges and issues that seniors face, they are more in tune into recognizing and treating seniors. The Goal is to keep seniors independent and pain free in their aging years as long as possible. Geriatric Physicians have:
- specialized understanding in dementia, and age related diseases
- a sub-specialty of internal, and family medicine
- an ability to differentiate regular signs of aging verses specific diseases in aging
- a network for collaborating with other types of specialists such as Urologists, Pulmonary and Heart physicians for the aging
Signs of the aging process come in many forms that can be physical, mental and emotional. The signs of aging can be confused with actual signs of disease. For example; forgetfulness can be the sign of early onset of Alzheimer’s. This is just one of a multitude of examples. Key point is for the advocate to continue to search for answers and not get comfortable that their loved one is simply “getting on in age.”
There are multiple degrees and specialties that can be obtained when interested in working with the aging. See details on the web sites for: American Geriatric Society (AGS). By working with a geriatric physician, your senior loved one will benefit as they understand:
- the decline of the functionality of human organs
- pharmaceutical issues that involve seniors, including a polypharmacy; seniors being prescribed too many drugs
- polypharmacy itself, which can produce a multitude of drug reactions and may produce disease-like symptoms
- the “four major impairments” of seniors, which include: mobility, stability, incontinence, and memory/intellect issues
Before contacting a geriatric doctor, have the following information and knowledge:
- verify Medicare and/or your loved ones insurance is accepted
- determine the physician is part of the network
- receive a transfer of medical records if referred from a previous physician
- a full listing of all diseases, operations and existing medications for past years
- a written list of concerns that can be discreetly handed to the physician upon arrival to preserve dignity of the loved one
- carry a copy of a Durable Power of Attorney in order to sign documents representing their interests e.g. medical and insurance documents
Your role is to advocate for your parent which, oftentimes can be a difficult balancing act. You may have different facts/opinions on specific behaviors and incidents your loved one is telling the doctor. Make sure that your concerns are voiced in writing to support and preserve dignity.
Find a doctor willing to co-partner with you as Caregiver in the well being of your parent.
- provide referrals from patients and other doctors.
- visit with you prior to the appointment to freely discuss your loved one.
- discuss his/her experience in working with the aging.
Once the appointment is secured:
Observe the doctor in the examination room with your parent to determine:
- level of patience
- ability to speak directly to the loved one
- listening closely to the loved one’s concern about health and treatment