A geriatrician is a primary care doctor who specializes in treating older adults. They may provide integrative care, diagnose a variety of conditions, and help you maintain a high quality of life.
Aging may present a unique set of physical, mental, emotional, and social challenges.
It’s estimated that by age 80,
There’s no specific age to start seeing a geriatrician. Each person’s conditions and needs are unique. However, you might consider seeing a geriatrician if you:
- are living with multiple conditions or diseases
- take multiple medications
- want to help provide additional assistance to your caregivers, family members, and friends
- have reduced mobility or another disability
Geriatric doctors help older adults — typically those ages 65 and older — stay functional, healthy, and happy. But geriatrics is an increasingly rare specialty.
The American Geriatrics Society estimates that there are just over 8,200 full-time practicing geriatricians in the United States. However, because the population is living longer, the demand for geriatricians is set to outpace the supply by 50% in 2030.
So, whether you may be reaching retirement age or you’ve been managing a health condition that typically affects older people, there may be good reasons to consider finding a geriatrician in your area.
Diagnose and treat various conditions
A geriatrician will perform functional, cognitive, and physical
Functional status refers to your ability to perform certain tasks on your own, such as:
- eating and drinking
- bathing and dressing
- controlling bowel and bladder movements
- taking medication
- shopping and doing household work
- managing your finances
- osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
- hearing and vision loss
- fall injuries or balance issues
Geriatricians may oversee your general health and help manage your healthcare team, which might include:
They can help you prioritize treatments if you’re managing several conditions. And, since they’re knowledgeable of complex drug interactions and side effects, they can help you develop a safe and healthy medication plan.
Promote healthy aging
Geriatricians can help you stay active, connected, and healthy.
They can also help you form positive self-perceptions about aging.
Similarly, people with negative self-perceptions or biases about aging may:
- irrationally justify their aches, pains, and illnesses
- expect not to be seen by a medical professional and therefore avoid seeking help
- be less likely to participate in positive activities such as exercise
You can also speak with a geriatrician about how best to navigate tough transitions in your family life, work, or living environment.
Geriatricians are fully trained medical doctors.
Their typical training journey includes:
- obtaining a medical degree after completing 4 years of school at a university or college
- completing 3–5 years in a full-time residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education
- obtaining an unrestricted medical license to practice medicine in the United States or Canada
- passing the Geriatric Medicine Certification Examination created and administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine
Here are some factors to consider when picking a geriatrician:
Ask prospective doctors how much experience they have in treating older adults and whether they have a board certification in this field.
Access to care
How easy is it for you to see the doctor? Do they offer same-day visits when necessary? Consider their office hours, the available parking facilities, and traffic in the area, as well as whether they have staff available to answer after-hours calls.
You can also ask which hospital they are affiliated with and how the hospital will relay information to the doctor if you’re admitted.
If you have health insurance, reach out to your insurance provider to see whether the doctor you’re interested in seeing is covered through your plan. If you don’t have health insurance or if your plan does not cover the doctor you want to see, you can call the doctor’s office to find out whether they offer payment plans or reduced rates for self-payers.
Find out whether you’ll receive phone call, text, or e-mail appointment reminders; whether the doctor offers telehealth appointments in addition to in-person visits; and how you can request prescription refills.
Personality and environment
How does the doctor interact with their healthcare team and with you? How does the rest of the staff treat you? Are they patronizing or kind and supportive? Does the doctor answer your questions directly and thoroughly?
It’s important to ask about their medical philosophy and their goals for your health and well-being to make sure these align with your expectations.
Geriatricians are medical doctors who specialize in treating conditions that affect older adults. Although they’re in increasingly short supply, they are a great resource for older people who may be taking multiple medications, have several conditions, or need support.