A geriatrician is an internal medicine or family medicine doctor who has also completed up to an additional 3 years of training and residency in the specialty of identifying and treating medical issues commonly found in older adults. However, depending on where you live, finding a Geriatrician may be hard.
As the aging population increases, the number of doctors specializing in geriatrics is decreasing. You’ll have a better chance of finding one if you live in one of the larger populated areas.
When You Can’t Find a Geriatrician
A good alternative to a geriatrician is an internal or family medicine doctor who has experience working with senior citizens. If you live in an area with a high concentration of retirees or snowbirds (in the U.S. retirees that reside in northern climates, but go south to a warmer climate for the winter), many of the doctors working in those areas are highly experienced with older adults.
When to Seek Out a Geriatrician
If you are the “average” 75-year old senior, you have at least three medical conditions each requiring medical care from different specialists, take five prescription drugs per day along with several over-the-counter medications, you need a centralized healthcare provider to manage your care – a geriatrician.
Otherwise what happens is each specialist prescribes his/her own treatment with or without prescriptions. Since one specialist doesn’t know what the other ones are doing, treatment plans can counteract each other and even endanger your health.
A geriatrician or physician with geriatrics experience can be the central source of care to ensure all specialized treatments and prescriptions complement or at least not interfere or counteract with each other.
Other times when a geriatrician should be consulted is when:
• Your condition includes a number of diseases or you have cognitive problems causing considerable impairment and frailty.
• You are taking a number of drugs but unsure what each one is supposed to treat and if they are helping, or
• If family members or friends are proving your care, but are under considerable stress or strain trying to manage your health.
The other benefit of seeing a geriatrician is that they use a holistic approach to medicine meaning they may be able to treat your medical conditions better with alternative therapies and reduce the number of medications you have to take. With some prescription medications, the side effects can be worse than the condition itself, especially when multiple medications are prescribed by different specialists.