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A geriatrician is a primary care physician who specializes in treating conditions that affect older adults.

It’s an increasingly rare specialty, in part because Medicare, the government healthcare insurance program for people aged 65 and older, has low reimbursement rates and many geriatricians earn less than other specialists.

The American Society of Geriatrics estimates that there are just over 6,900 certified geriatricians in the United States, and with the U.S. population living longer than ever, the need for geriatricians is set to outpace supply in the coming decades.

If you’re reaching retirement age, or you’re already dealing with a health condition that typically affects older people, there are good reasons to consider finding a geriatrician in your area.

Specialize in advanced care of older adults

Geriatricians diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions and diseases that affect people as they age, including:

Integrate care

Geriatricians can act as a point of contact on a team of healthcare providers, keeping track of complex drug interactions and prioritizing treatments for people who may be dealing with several conditions.

Foster healthy aging

Aging presents unique physical, cognitive, emotional, and social challenges. Geriatricians educate people about how to stay active, connected, and healthy, and how to manage transitions in their family life, work life, and living environments.

They may also be able to help you combat negative stereotypes about aging that could affect your overall health. Studies have shown that when healthcare providers and patients have negative ideas about aging, it can translate into worse health outcomes for patients.

Geriatricians are fully trained medical doctors. After graduating from medical school, completing residency requirements, and becoming state-licensed to practice medicine, doctors who want to specialize in geriatric medicine must become board-certified in internal medicine or family medicine.

They must also complete a geriatric medicine fellowship at an accredited facility and pass the Geriatric Medicine Certification Examination.

A geriatrician is a medical doctor that specializes in the care of older adults.

Gerontologists aren’t medical doctors. They’re professionals who specialize in issues of aging or professionals in various fields from dentistry and psychology to nursing and social work who study and may receive certification in gerontology. These professionals are prepared to provide their services and care to older adults.

The biggest benefit of going to a geriatrician is the specialized training they have in preventing, diagnosing, and treating the specific medical and health conditions that may affect you as you get older.

Just as parents take babies and children to pediatricians because of their specialized knowledge, people choose geriatricians to take advantage of the most advanced care available for older adults.

Research also shows that doctors who specialize in geriatric medicine tend to have comforting attitudes and enjoy the chance to improve overall quality of life for older adults.

Physicians at Johns Hopkins Medicine recommend that you consider four important factors when picking a geriatrician.

Is this doctor properly trained?

Ask prospective doctors what certifications they’ve earned. You can also ask whether your doctor is affiliated with any hospitals or universities that specialize in caring for older adults.

Am I going to have easy access to care?

How easy is it for you to get to your doctor? Think about the office hours, parking facilities, and traffic in the area.

You should also find out whether your insurance is accepted, and whether the office ever provides in-home services.

Am I comfortable with the way the doctor communicates?

How does your doctor interact with your other healthcare providers, and how will your doctor communicate with you? Find out whether you’ll receive text or e-mail appointment reminders, and how you’ll request prescription refills.

What’s the guiding philosophy?

At your first few appointments, pay attention to how you feel in the office environment. Does the staff treat you with respect and courtesy? Does the doctor answer your questions directly and thoroughly? What are the doctor’s goals for your health and well-being? You want to be sure your aims are the same and you can develop a trusting relationship.

Geriatricians are medical doctors who specialize in treating older adults. Although they’re in increasingly short supply, geriatricians are a great resource for people as they age. They’re specially trained in the conditions older adults face, and they can help integrate your care if you’re dealing with several conditions at the same time.

If you want to seek out a geriatrician, be sure your doctor is board-certified in geriatric medicine. You should have easy access to the office and your insurance plan should be accepted there. You should also be sure you’re comfortable with office procedures and the doctor’s philosophy.