Pop quiz: Can you define geriatrics? And did you know that it’s not just for the “old-old”?
If you hesitated with these two questions, don’t feel bad. Most people know that geriatrics has something to do with the elderly, but beyond that there’s a lot of confusion about what it is, who it can help, and how it’s different from gerontology.
To clear up the confusion and help all seniors — whether younger or older — understand how to benefit from geriatrics, I’ve written an article for NextAvenue.org:
“How Geriatrics Can Help You – Even If You’re Not Yet ‘Old-Old‘”
In this article, I explain:
- What is geriatrics
- Why geriatrics, similar to pediatrics, involves a medical knowledge base along with an approach that’s better for certain age groups
- What is a geriatrician
- What is gerontology, and how it’s different from geriatrics
- Why you do need geriatrics but probably don’t need a geriatrician
Why We Should All Understand What Geriatrics Is
I wrote this article because geriatrics has wonderful things to offer when it comes to the health of older adults, just as pediatrics offers wonderful benefits to children. (Kids need healthcare that’s adapted to their growing minds and bodies. Older adults need healthcare that’s adapted to their aging bodies and minds.)
Unfortunately, although everyone knows what pediatrics is, and almost everyone who wants to can get care directly from a pediatrician, geriatrics is in a different position.
People often don’t realize that geriatrics is a medical specialty, and that a whole knowledge base about modifying healthcare for older adults exists.
This is a huge problem given that our population is aging.
And then even if people do learn about geriatrics, they are often unable to find a geriatrician.
Now, it’s too bad we have a shortage of geriatricians, but that doesn’t mean we can’t leverage geriatrics to help as many older adults as possible.
We can do it if everyone involved in the care of older adults learns to apply some of what geriatricians know.
Don’t assume geriatrics is just for the very old; avoiding risky medications that increase dementia risk is something to start doing in your sixties!
Don’t think that only geriatricians can deliver geriatrics care; we can all get better at connecting seniors with healthcare that’s adapted to aging minds and bodies.
It’s the only way we can help a growing senior population have the best health and wellbeing possible.
Chris B says
My mother is 94 and pretty actrive. However, her memory is failing and we have noticed it more so in past month. Should she see a neurologist or a geriatrician? Her regular GP only states, “your 94” and does nothing more
Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says
Well, it is common for memory to get worse at her age, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be evaluated. The initial evaluation can be done by a GP, and I explain what should be covered here:
Cognitive Impairment in Aging: 10 Common Causes & 10 Things the Doctor Should Check
You could start by checking to see if her GP has done the things that are recommended in the article. If he can’t or won’t, you could indeed see a specialist. A geriatrician will probably provide a more practical and useful approach than a neurologist, but geriatricians are often harder to find, since we are fewer. Good luck!
Poorna Singh Khadka says
There is no any facility in this regard in my country, Nepal. And govt has not yet been surveyed about this sort of sufferers what the actual number are they. My concern is how Nepalese people will get such remedies for geriatrics ? I want to establish a counselling center in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Some experts are very much essential in this field when we start a counselling center. We don/t have even a single doctor in this sector.
Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH says
It’s true that the population of older adults is growing in just about every country, so ideally every country would have geriatricians available to provide guidance.
I am not sure what the options are, for clinicians in foreign countries who want to get trained in geriatrics. Let us know if you find any, and good luck!