Six Reasons to Schedule an Appointment With a Geriatrician

If you are over the age of 65, consider scheduling an appointment with a geriatrician. If you are the adult child of a senior parent, you may want to consider suggesting to your mother or father that he or she considers an appointment with a geriatrician. A geriatrician is a doctor who specializes in working with seniors. There are six important, key reasons why you should consider an appointment with a geriatrician once you are (or your parent is) over the age of 65:

  • Medication review
  • Fall Prevention
  • Dementia assessment
  • End-of-life planning
  • Establish a primary care physician relationship
  • Obtain comprehensive geriatric consult

Medication Review

An important reason to schedule an appointment with a geriatrician is to obtain a medication review. A geriatrician will review a senior’s prescribed and over-the-counter medications. If a geriatrician deems it necessary, a geriatrician will make changes regarding medications.

Geriatricians are well-versed in working with older people who take multiple medications. They know how to address adverse side effects associated with medications and combinations of medications. Geriatricians also understand when eliminating certain medications is in the best interests of older individuals.

Fall Prevention

Falls are a primary cause of injury, disability, and even death among older women and men. Geriatricians can also be highly helpful in the realm of fall prevention. Statistics about older individuals, falls, and associated injuries underscore the importance of fall prevention and of a senior meeting with a geriatrician to create a meaningful fall prevention plan:

  • 67 percent of falls do not happen from a height but when individuals slip or trip.
  • Social isolation increases the likelihood of a fall-related injury.
  • The prevalence of falls in the elderly results in approximately 700,000 to 1 million hospital visits yearly.
  • Every 11 seconds, an older person receives treatment for a fall in the emergency room.
  • 80 percent of hospital patient falls aren’t witnessed by staff.
  • In the US, accidental falls in older people complicate 2 percent of hospital stays.
  • Every year, 37.3 million falls worldwide result in serious injuries requiring medical treatment.
  • Someone dies by fall every 19 minutes.
  • Falls statistics in the elderly show that older people with hearing loss have three times the risk of an accidental fall.
  • Projects aimed at fall prevention have been successful, resulting in a 35 percent reduction in hospital fall rates.

These medical professionals work closely with patients to develop meaningful and effective fall-prevention plans. These plans often include the recommendation for using different interventions to enhance an older person’s safety and reduce the risk of falling. These interventions might include:

  • Modifications to an older person’s home
  • Use of assistive devices (cane, walker, wheelchair)
  • Referral to a physical therapist to assist with mobility matters

Dementia Assessment

Yet another of the primary reasons why a senior sees a geriatrician is to obtain a dementia assessment. There are significant benefits to obtaining a dementia assessment from a geriatrician. Detecting dementia at an early point in its progression benefits a senior in a variety of ways that include:

  • Ensuring that a senior receives the most benefit at the earliest point possible from treatment options
  • More time to plan for the future
  • Lessened anxieties about unknown problems
  • Increased chances of participating in clinical drug trials, helping advance research
  • An opportunity to participate in decisions about care, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters
  • Time to develop a relationship with doctors and care partners
  • Benefit from care and support services, making it easier for them and their family to manage the disease

End-Of-Life Planning

A geriatrician can also help a senior and his or her family plan for end-of-life care. This process can include discussing various life-sustaining treatments and advance care directives. An advanced directive sets forth a person’s desires regarding life-sustaining or special medical treatments.

Another thing you should be aware of is that geriatricians often work on multidisciplinary teams that include:

  • Geriatric nurses
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Registered dieticians
  • Certified diabetes educators
  • Social workers
  • Therapists
  • Psychiatrists

This team approach focuses on many aspects of the patient’s life, including social support, mental health, and nutrition. 

Establish a Primary Care Physician Relationship

Many older Americans elect to have a geriatrician serve as their primary care physician. There are several reasons why a person benefits from having a primary care physician and having a geriatrician play that role. The benefits of having a primary care physician include the following:

  • Continuity of care
  • Medication management
  • Time savings
  • Preventative care
  • Referrals to specialists

By selecting a geriatrician to fulfill the role of primary care physician, an older individual engages a specialist who understands the unique health issues and challenges senior faces.

Obtain Comprehensive Geriatric Consult

Finally, you may consider seeing a geriatrician to obtain a comprehensive consultation. The various elements of a comprehensive geriatric consultation include:

  • A review of medications
  • An analysis of pain
  • Cognitive testing
  • Osteoporosis screening
  • Discussion of advance care directives
  • Vision and hearing testing
  • Social work consult
  • A family meeting

After the consultation, the geriatrician sends the findings and recommendations to the senior’s primary care physician.

One final consideration is that you cannot force your mother or father to see a geriatrician. Your parent needs to make that decision on his or her own. As a gateway to introducing a geriatrician to your parent, consider a meeting with his or her existing physician and have him explain the benefits available if your parent were to go to a geriatrician for a comprehensive geriatric assessment.

As long as your parent can make decisions, healthcare decisions are your parent’s to make. This includes the selection of a primary care physician and incorporating a geriatrician on your parent’s healthcare team as he or she may desire.