Now is the best time to be involved in geriatrics, with the care infrastructure continuing to grow for the elderly. As the population ages at a high rate, our healthcare systems will rely on geriatricians and other medical professionals to provide excellent care for this growing population.
While not every patient over 75 needs to see a geriatrician, several underlying health factors can identify those who should. Continue reading to learn more about geriatrics, relevant conditions, who treats them, and how you can get involved in senior care.
The 5 Ms of Geriatrics
People are more complex than many labels, such as “geriatric,” can express in one word. Geriatric doesn’t mean the same thing to every person. Not all older adults need to seek the care of a geriatrician.
The five Ms of geriatrics is a model to help identify which patients should seek geriatric care instead of a primary care physician.
Multi-complexity refers to a person’s conditions, not just their age. Factors such as the number of medications they take, their chronic conditions, and what health care matters most to them need equal consideration.
Disorders of the mind remain common among elderly patients. Medical occurrences such as dementia, depression, delirium, and mentation need further consideration when providing complete care for a geriatric patient.
Some geriatric patients can quickly get to where they need to go. However, many need help with mobility. Healthcare providers should also consider injuries sustained from falls, irregular or imbalanced walking gaits, and overall mobility levels.
As individuals with several conditions, geriatric patients typically take multiple prescription drugs to alleviate their pain and symptoms. Polypharmacy, or taking several prescription drugs, creates a problem in care. It remains crucial for geriatricians to prescribe medication optimally, allowing patients to get the best results with the least amount of prescriptions.
5. What Matters Most
Every person has goals when it comes to health outcomes. For some elderly patients, independence remains a top priority. For others, living in a supportive community while receiving excellent care is paramount.
Types of Geriatric Conditions
Geriatric patients commonly have multiple chronic conditions. These conditions will present differently in elderly patients than in younger patients and require specialized care from geriatricians.
Dementia affects the brain tissue and can impact a person’s memory, making it difficult to live independently. Alzheimer’s disease remains the most common form of dementia, with most diagnoses occurring after age 65.
Falling remains a significant issue for seniors living alone and in nursing homes or care communities. Elderly patients can sustain life-threatening injuries from a simple fall. Falls can also psychologically affect patients, leading them to self-isolate or halt previous activities they usually enjoy.
Delirium is a syndrome that an individual can exhibit in the form of temporary hallucinations, fevers, inability to focus, memory loss, restlessness, and many other symptoms. The length and severity of delirium symptoms can range dramatically depending on the cause.
Heart disease is a common condition in the U.S., affecting an increasing number of individuals yearly. Coronary heart disease is a common chronic condition that many elderly patients face. Heart disease affects the amount of oxygen that reaches the blood within the heart and surrounding tissues.
Heart disease can lead to various health problems due to the narrowing of the blood vessels causing less oxygen to reach the extremities.
With multiple chronic conditions, each requiring specific medication, polypharmacy can be a leading problem for geriatric patients. Polypharmacy refers to the numerous medications the patient takes for multiple conditions.
Care Providers for the Elderly
A team of interdisciplinary care staff provides health services for elderly patients:
- Geriatrician: A geriatrician is a specialized doctor caring for the specific needs of geriatric patients and their unique conditions. Geriatricians have a background in primary care with extra training in geriatrics.
- Social worker: A social worker aids an elderly patient with their emotional and behavioral concerns.
- Nutritionist: Nutritionists provide tailored care for geriatric patients in determining which foods will best help their health conditions.
- Physical therapist: A physical therapist can help increase an individual’s mobility and flexibility to improve their overall health and regain an active lifestyle.
Who Should See a Geriatrician?
Individuals may switch from primary care physicians to geriatricians for various reasons. Elderly patients with severe frailty that affects their mobility and ability to perform daily tasks should seek the care of a geriatrician.
Geriatric Care Careers With Saint James School of Medicine
Providing care for the elderly will continue to be at the forefront of healthcare for medical professionals and future doctors. Understanding the health conditions and concerns of geriatric patients can help you provide superior care.
To learn more about careers in geriatrics, contact Saint James School of Medicine at 800-542-1553 for more information.
Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)