Geriatrics is an area of medicine dealing with elderly patients. The main goals of this field are to promote the health of the elderly and to prevent and treat diseases they may encounter.
A medical professional who specializes in geriatrics is called a geriatrician. His or her job can be quite demanding, as elderly patients tend to have unique health concerns, with many health issues occurring at one time in a patient. In addition, elderly patients often react differently than younger patients when they become ill. Therefore, a geriatrician must create a health plan that addresses these unique needs.
In the United States, it is necessary for a doctor to be board-certified in either Internal Medicine or Family Practice in order to specialize in geriatrics. He or she must also undergo additional training in order to receive certification in the field.
In addition to the primary care physician, there are several other members of a geriatrics team, including pharmacists, nurses, and physical therapists. All of these positions require special certifications in order to work with elderly patients. Social workers, geropsychiatrists, and nutritionists may also be called upon to work as part of the team.
A team is created for many elderly patients in order to treat the patient from a holistic approach. Together, the members look at the patient’s past and current health status. They also look for certain concerning characteristics, such as memory problems, incontinence, side effects from medication, and frequent falls, in order to develop a plan to properly care for these issues.
In order to create a unique and effective plan, the geriatrics team must evaluate every aspect of the patient’s life. This includes examining the support provided to the patient by family members as well as by the community as a whole. The team also must consider the patient’s ability to take care of him or herself from day to day. Therefore, they evaluate how well the patient is capable of taking a bath, eating, and getting dressed without assistance.
The geriatrician usually remains the head of the geriatrics teams. Nonetheless, the feedback and assistance provided by the rest of the team help ensure that the patient is provided with the best care possible.