Senior Health Care: The Importance of Having a Geriatrician on Your Team

If your young child suddenly developed an illness, who would you call? It’s a no-brainer; many parents have the phone number programmed on their phone for the pediatrician they’ve carefully selected to manage the medical care needs of their children. With their specialized training, working with a trustworthy pediatrician ensures the best possible care.

Similarly, selecting a health care provider for senior loved ones who focuses on senior health care needs [MS1] is equally as essential. Yet unfortunately, the health care system in general has not placed a great focus on the distinct health care needs of older adults. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains her concern over this age-related health care gap, and how little professors in medical school are focused on elder care.

Reflecting on her own residency, she shares, “We literally did the same thing for forty-year-olds as we did for eighty-year-olds, and we’d treat all eighty-year-olds the same whether they’re dependent or independent, have limited life expectancy or complete life expectancy, and that just didn’t sit well with me.”

Thankfully, there has been a new push to provide medical students with additional geriatric training, such as an emphasis on a holistic strategy to older adult care – viewing the body as a whole. It’s essential for older adults to have a trusted geriatrician who’s able to oversee and piece together the results of the often multiple specialists an older adult patient sees. In fact, providing additional education for anyone who comes in contact with older adults in a medical setting – from EMTs to hospital receptionists and triage workers to doctors and nurses – is essential to combat ageism and ensure seniors obtain the standard of care they need and deserve.

In addition, seniors and their family caregivers might want to research the services of a geriatrician as their primary care physician. Not to be confused with gerontologists, who specialize in aging-related matters but are not medical doctors, geriatricians are board-certified physicians who have completed a fellowship in geriatric medicine and have passed the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam.

There are nearly 7,000 certified geriatricians in the U.S., according to the American Society of Geriatrics. They recommend assessing potential geriatricians by asking the following questions:

  • What certification and training have you received?
  • Do you accept my insurance coverage?
  • Will you work with each member of my healthcare team?
  • How is communication handled – texts about prescription refills, email appointment reminders, etc.?
  • What is your driving philosophy?

Visit the geriatrician for an initial consultation, and assess additional details such as:

  • Is the office easy to access?
  • Is there adequate parking?
  • Are the staff respectful and courteous?
  • Does the geriatrician speak directly to the senior?
  • Do questions receive comprehensive answers?

Pay attention to your gut feelings. If any red flags are noted, you might want to consider searching further to be sure that the geriatrician selected is an individual you and the senior loved one are completely comfortable with.

At Seniorcorp, our staff are thoroughly trained in providing compassionate, specialized senior health care for older adults in the comfort of home. Reach out to us any time at 757-640-0557 for help or to learn more about our personalized home care in Virginia Beach and nearby areas.