Many older adults tend to stick with the physicians they’ve known all their lives. They only seek out new ones when absolutely necessary, or when a specialist is called for. Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with this. Developing a trusted relationship with a doctor is a key part of making the most of your healthcare.
However, there may be good reason to go from a generalist practitioner to a geriatrician (a doctor who specializes in older populations) as the years go by. Home nurses are especially attuned to when clients may require this specific professional. Read on for some common scenarios seen by home nurses that lead to geriatrician recommendations.
When you need a geriatrician
Not only are geriatricians already primary care doctors, but they’ve also had additional training in meeting an older adult’s medical needs. That is the main reason home nurses recommend these physicians; an older adult’s health and treatment plan may vary wildly from a younger person’s. It’s especially important to consider that the older you are, the more likely you’ll be coping with more than one (potentially serious) condition at a time, in addition to lacking the recovery abilities you once had.
The following are common, specific situations where home nurses are likely to suggest bringing a geriatrician on board:
Compound medical issues
If an older adult is suffering from multiple medical issues, such as stroke recovery, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and more, a geriatrician knows how these conditions interact with one another. He or she will also be able to create a treatment plan that incorporates them all.
Along with complicated medical conditions comes the need for multiple medications. A geriatrician knows that older adults often have trouble getting their prescriptions, forget to take them, or get confused by their instructions. He or she will know how to address these issues. In addition, medications break down differently in older adults than in younger people. Geriatricians also know how to prepare for this, as well as recognize a drug’s side effects and interactions with other medications.
Frailty often hits older adults just as they are trying to maintain their sense of independence. You may find it harder to do things such as clean the house, cook your own meals, or even drive. This often results in a health decline due to things like poor diet, falls, infections, and car accidents. Geriatricians commonly see the warning signs of this in their patients, and may suggest additional supervision to prevent a tragedy.
Most older adults face some decrease in physical functioning as the years go by. Eventually, you may need help with ADL’s or “Activities of Daily Living.” Geriatricians are often the first to recognize when assistance is required for tasks such as feeding, toileting, bathing, dressing, and more. They can often suggest quality home care agencies that can make these tasks easier on both the patient and their families, as the latter may be overwhelmed with caregiving.
A little forgetfulness is common as we grow older, but severe or sudden decreases in cognition should not be considered normal. They may indicate serious diseases like Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia. Geriatricians are familiar with what’s typical and what’s not when it comes to declines in cognition, and can tell whether a patient suffers from the beginnings of a serious illness.
Get geriatrician recommendations from your home nurse
According to the American Geriatric Society, there are about 9,000 certified geriatricians in the United States today. That may seem like a lot, but considering that there are about 41.4 million older adults in the U.S., finding the right geriatrician can be challenging. However, your home nurse is likely a great source for recommendations when it comes to adding a geriatrician to your care team. If you don’t have a home nurse, but are considering one, talk to a qualified home care agency. With specialized professionals like these on your side, you can maximize your health throughout your golden years!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.