Ageing and old age is indeed both a wonderful and scary part of life. You have bragging rights as someone who has lived through the years. But there are also the accompanying complications that come with growing old. And, healthcare concerns may very well top the list.
Your once youthful body may no longer be capable of doing what it could once upon a time. Of course, there are variations within the older adults. That is what makes the older demographics so interesting. The heterogeneous nature means you will find an interesting mix of people within.
You can find a 70-year-old who can complete a marathon alongside younger people. But on the other side is an age mate who suffers from age-related complications.
Research indicates that up to 92% of older adults suffer from one chronic condition. 77% will have two or more. The most common issues are cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 25% of adults aged 65 to 74 have mild-to-moderate hearing impairments.
Accessing good healthcare is critical as we age. And seeking help from geriatric doctors is the best option.
Our article looks at when to consult a geriatric doctor and the benefits.
When to Plan Your First Consultation With a Geriatric Doctor
Before we answer the question, let’s start by understanding who a geriatric doctor is.
You see, the field of medicine has many areas of specialization. When you were a child, your parents took you to the pediatrician. As you grew older, you had a general care physician. But, you would get referrals to specialists as the need arose. And now, as an older adult, you may need a geriatric doctor as your primary care doctor.
But who is a geriatric doctor? Well, this is a medical physician specializing in treating older adults. But even within the niche are varying levels of specifications. Some geriatric doctors will specialize in the treatment of much older adults. They could range from ages 75 and above. These demographics’ health issues will differ from those of, say, a 55-year-old adult.
Now, back to the question about the best time to consult a geriatric doctor. Well, there is no set timeline for when you should book an appointment. True, most patients are from the age of 65 and above.
But, your physical condition as an older adult will determine when to consult one. So check if you are:-
- Becoming impaired in some way or are frail
- Suffering from many conditions, which need complex medications or care
- Lacking enough support from your caregivers
As we said above, the older adult demographic is heterogeneous in nature. What will affect one person may not present in another.
Let’s say you are still healthy and are not on a strict regimen of medications. Then, it may not be necessary to consult a geriatric doctor. Indeed you can go ahead and let your general care physician manage any issues.
Benefits of Consulting a Geriatric Doctor
Let us now look at some of the benefits of consulting geriatric doctors.
Geriatric Doctors Offer Specialized Care to Older Adults
As we stated above, geriatric doctors specialize in providing healthcare to older adults. They have the relevant knowledge and experience to manage age-related complications. The training is specific to meeting the needs of such demographics. This includes disease diagnosis and medication dispensation.
We go back to the example of visiting a pediatrician as a child. It is not to say that the general health doctor could not have managed the health conditions. But, the pediatrician has in-depth training and knowledge of what affects children. That extra knowledge is what makes one an expert in the field. And the same applies to geriatric doctors.
Tackling the Problem of Polypharmacy in Geriatric Medication
As we grow older, some conditions need medication. It is not uncommon for one patient to take upwards of five prescription drugs. And that is where the term polypharmacy comes from. Indeed there is increasing concern about polypharmacy amongst the elderly.
There is a greater risk of adverse reactions due to metabolic changes. The body can also not clear drugs as fast, further exacerbating the risk factors. The availability of over-the-counter medications can also lead to adverse drug reactions.
Geriatric doctors understand the health implications of the older demographics. They are also well-versed with the issue of polypharmacy. Patients taking a larger number of prescription drugs need close monitoring.
The doctor can also do away with some medications that may not add value. Indeed some even recommend non-medical interventions to reduce dependence on drugs.
Tailor-Made Treatments with Geriatric Doctors
Every patient who walks through a geriatric doctor’s door is unique. A one fits all approach to health intervention cannot work. That is why one of the first things the doctor will do is to carry out a geriatric assessment.
An assessment is a good way to understand the patient’s physical, mental, social and overall wellbeing.
What makes it different from a typical medical examination is the scope. The assessment also focuses on factors outside of the medical domain. That is why there is a focus on the quality of life and functional capacity.
The assessment also incorporates a multidisciplinary team. These include doctors, physiotherapists, social workers and even family members.
Geriatric assessments allow for tailor-made interventions specific to the patient. A patient could report a specific health condition. After an evaluation, it shows the disease has nothing to do with bodily functions. The issue could stem from social or environmental circumstances. There may, for example, be insufficient care or even poor living conditions.
With these insights, the doctor can take specific health action. The assessment provides the framework for treatment.
The reality for many people is that age comes with several complications. It is crucial to find the right treatment for such. That is one of the best ways to enjoy a better quality of life in your sunset years.
Geriatric doctors step in to provide a fantastic solution to managing your healthcare. They have the relevant training and knowledge in age-related complications. Depending on your needs, you get specialized care, better medications, and tailor-made solutions.
As we stated above, there is no set timeline on when to call in for a consultation. But do look out for some of the symptoms we shared above. They provide the best determinant of when to book your appointment.