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What is Geriatrics?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon955875 — On Jun 10, 2014

@naturesgul3 --- you definitely should check out the American Geriatrics Society which has what you're looking for and also you should look into ADGAP's Match program if you're looking for geriatrics fellowship.

By anon283038 — On Aug 01, 2012

Dealing with geriatric patients is not easy. As a geriatric nurse, you should be competent enough in dealing with geriatric patients and knowledgeable enough for you to be able to deal with other patients well.

By anon119737 — On Oct 19, 2010

I am a basic doctor from Myanmar. I started getting interested in geriatrics when i was in my house officer life in 2009. Now i am working as a volunteer medical officer at "Elderly Care Clinic" under WHO. I think we need patience in our geriatric care and good communication skills.

By yournamehere — On Sep 13, 2010

@naturesgurl3 -- Why don't you look at the American Geriatrics Society web site? I bet they have some info you could use.

By naturesgurl3 — On Sep 13, 2010

What is a good way to choose a good university for geriatric nursing?

I have been looking at different geriatrics departments in universities in my area, but I'm kind of stuck on how to choose one.

I really want one where I could eventually go on to do a geriatrics fellowship, if all goes well.

Can somebody advise me?

By galen84basc — On Sep 13, 2010

It takes a really special person to get into geriatrics and aging. I don't think that I'd have the patience for most of the geriatrics jobs, which is why I would not be a good fit.

Clinical geriatrics is a really demanding job not only in terms of medicine, since elderly people have a whole range of health issues, but also in terms of communication.

For instance, did you know that in most doctor's geriatrics training, they learn how to communicate effectively with older people, and, more importantly how to listen to them.

Older people have different fears and stigmas than younger generations, and that's why it's so important, whether in clinical geriatrics, or even more so in geriatric psychiatry, for the doctor to know how to read between the lines.

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