Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Geriatricians Help the Elderly

by Helene King

As the baby boomer generation continues to age, geriatricians and the services they need will be in more demand. One report by the Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs and the American Geriatrics Society estimates that while there are currently 7,500 certified geriatricians in the nation, 36,000 geriatricians will be needed by 2030.

If you’ve never even heard of a geriatrician, you’re not alone. To find out why their skills may help you enjoy a healthy fulfilling life as you get older, read on.

What is a Geriatrician?
A geriatrician is a medical doctor who has further training and experience in diagnosing and treating people as they get older. The challenges we face as we age can involve ongoing, complex medical conditions and/or physical, emotional and social issues. Geriatricians can also be crucial when it comes to maintaining normal care and wellness routines.

Geriatricians are board-certified in internal or family medicine and have a minimum of one year of clinical training in geriatric medicine.

A geriatrician is different than a gerontologist because the later has an advanced degree in the study of aging but does not have a medical degree.

Additionally, geriatricians work with family members and caregivers for approaches to cope with their own worries and stress.

Common Elderly Issues
With major advancements in medical care, people are living longer. However, as the body ages, it changes and different conditions can develop. Factors of both the environment and genetics play roles in how we grow older.

Heart disease is the most common illness that people 64 and old develop, but it’s often not the only thing. Many times elders are dealing with two or more of the following health issues at the same time.

  • Heart conditions (hypertension, vascular disease, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease)
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression
  • Incontinence (urine and stool)
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing problems
  • Frequent falls
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, Macular Degeneration)
  • A weakened immune system

Multi-Disciplinary Team
“Caring for the elderly is really a team effort,” says Susan Levy, MD, medical director of Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital and Courtland Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “A geriatrician often works with medical experts in a variety of fields to treat the whole person, both physically and psychologically.”

Other team members can include primary care doctors, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech/language therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, cardiologists, urologists and neurologists.

Sometimes people who are 60 or older and are healthy stay with their primary care doctors. Other times, they decide to also work with a geriatrician, so he or she has a baseline to analyze any changes if, or when, they happen.

Getting Help
If you are wondering where can find a geriatrician, in the Baltimore area, you can call LifeBridge Health at 410-601-WELL. For other areas, you can call American Geriatrics Society at 212-308-1414.

No comments: