Growing older is no easy task; as the body ages, physical health can become more complicated with eyes that weaken, bones that become more frail, and the fear of dementia to consider.
Here are some answers to help you determine if specialized geriatric care and a doctor of geriatrics is for you:
Should I continue to see a family practice physician or should I seek a geriatrician?
Many patients over the age of 60 choose to stick with their primary care doctor. After all, finding a great doctor who has been with you for years and knows your medical history can be priceless. However, if you are facing multiple problems that need special attention, a geriatrician may be better equipped to address your medical issues.
However, there are not as many doctors specializing in geriatrics as one would think. According to board-certified geriatrician Dr. Myles Sheehan, it is not necessary or practical for most patients to have a geriatrician as their primary doctor due to the fact that there are few in the field and the numbers are actually decreasing.
When should I seek a geriatrician?
Geriatric medicine specialists are available and can run a gamut of tests to determine your level of health. These tests include a routine physical, analysis of pain levels, cognitive testing, a screening for osteoporosis, vision and hearing tests, a dental exam, and a dietary consultation.
Regardless, you should currently be getting routine checkups with you present physician for preventative care concerning diabetes, skin cancer, cholesterol screenings, vision and hearing tests, breast exams (for women), and rectal exams for prostate cancer (PSA tests for men). I know these tests aren’t fun or pretty, but the results from these procedures will give you a good indication on whether you may need the specialized care of a geriatric doctor or not.
Dr. Myles Sheehan and Dr. Rahmawati Sih, both geriatricians, state that those who would receive the greatest benefit from treatment and care by a geriatrician are, “the frailest old with multiple medical problems, the older adult with multiple medical problems and limited social support, and the older adult with those medical problems primarily associated with aging.”
Where do I find geriatric care by me?
If you would like to find a geriatrician in your area, you can contact the American Geriatrics Society at 212-308-1414, The American Board of Internal Medicine at 215-446-3500, or HealthinAging.org.