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As the baby boomer generation enters it's senior years, one in five Americans will be over 65. Seniors over age 85 are the fastest growing segment of the population. Geriatricians are primary care doctors who have had additional training in the health care needs of older people.
Geriatricians are trained to recognize how illness in an elderly person is different from illness in a younger person. Here's a look at how a geriatrician approaches some of the more serious senior health issues:
• Frailty: An inevitable part of aging, but it may affect an elderly person's ability to function independently at different times and in different ways, such as making them more susceptible to falls and needing more supervision and assistance. A geriatrician can help anticipate problems and put a care plan in place.• Multiple medical problems: Many seniors have multiple medical conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and neurological conditions. A geriatrician has training in how these conditions interact in seniors.• Multiple medications: Multiple medical conditions often require taking numerous prescription drugs. An older body breaks down medications differently than a younger one. Geriatricians are trained to recognize side effects and drug interactions in seniors.• Mental decline: Some loss of cognitive ability is an inevitable part of aging, but certain symptoms may indicate common conditions such as depression or Alzheimer's disease. Geriatricians are trained to know the difference between the signs of normal aging and those of more serious illness. They can also provide the appropriate treatment for the condition.• Care giving advice: Being a caregiver for someone with senior health issues can be confusing, stressful, and exhausting. Seniors may need help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, going to the bathroom, or eating. A geriatrician can help with finding the right outside assistance and support from professionals such as a care manager or a home aide.
Finding a geriatician: According to the American Geriatric Society, there are only about 9,000 certified geriatricians in the United States. As a result, locating a geriatrician who is taking on new patients can sometimes be difficult. If you think seeing a geriatrician would benefit you or a loved one, ask you current primary car doctor to help with a referral.