By Allison Ostroff, MD, Nuvance Health Medical Practice
It’s important to see your primary care doctor for annual physicals and sick appointments. If you are an adult age 65 or older with complicated medical conditions or health concerns, there may be good reason to add a geriatrician to your care team.
Geriatricians are primary care physicians who specialize in the advanced care of older adults. They can help diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions that affect people as they age and ensure a good quality of life is maintained.
Because they have spent an additional one to two years training in geriatric medicine after their residency and are board-certified, they are considered specialized in the care of older adults.
Advanced care for common conditions
Here are some of the most common conditions geriatricians treat:
- Lack of bladder control or urinary incontinence
- Sleep problems, including trouble sleeping at night or chronic fatigue
- Delirium, which is a state of sudden confusion and happens when some older adults are admitted to the hospital
- Dementia, a memory problem that can affect your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks
- Depression and anxiety, key areas given that older men have a high rate of undiagnosed and undertreated depression and suicidal thoughts
- Falls, which are a leading cause of serious injury in older people
- Osteoporosis, or “thinning bones,” which can make older adults more fragile
- Weight loss, often attributed to a diminished sense of taste or an underlying medical problem
Focuses of geriatric medicine
Geriatric healthcare providers focus on five key areas, known as the Geriatric 5Ms. The “Ms” stands for the targets that are important to care for patients as they age.
The first M is for Multicomplexity. The geriatrician doesn’t just focus on one issue but instead treats all the chronic conditions, advanced illnesses and any complex biological, psychological and social needs together.
The second is Mind, including mental activity, dementia, delirium and depression.
Then there is Mobility. Is the person at risk of falls due to mobility or impaired gait, or how they walk and maintain their balance?
The fourth M is for Medications. The geriatrician looks at all of them to see how they interact, whether they are necessary and the side effects versus the benefits.
The last M stands for what Matters most. Each patient’s care plan should be tailored to their own meaningful health outcome goals and their preferences.
When to consult
Living well at the end of one’s life means doing it with quality. You should consider seeing a geriatrician if:
- You are an older adult with a significant health condition, impaired or frail, or if you have memory concerns
- Your family members and friends are under significant stress as your caregivers
- You or your caregivers have trouble following complex treatments or managing relationships with healthcare providers for multiple conditions
To find a geriatrician
Nuvance Health’s Find a Doctor tool allows people to browse for primary and specialty care close to home as well as request and book appointments online. Search for “geriatric medicine” to find a geriatrician near you.
Dr. Allison Ostroff is Nuvance Health’s Healthy Aging Program medical director in Connecticut. She is fellowship trained and board certified in both internal and geriatric medicine.