Just as pediatricians are experts on kids, geriatricians are experts on the health needs of older adults.
The American Geriatrics Society estimates nearly a third of people over age 65 need one.
Dr. Charles Breish of Main Line Health says geriatricians do deliver primary care, but usually serve as consultants on complex conditions the affect seniors.
“Probably the two main ones that I see are falls – frequent falling – and cognitive impairment, or you know, memory difficulties,” he said. “There’s a well-known geriatric syndrome known as frailty – which is a combination of malnutrition, muscle weakness, and weight loss.”
Studies show seniors who see geriatricians are less likely to end up in the hospital.
Dr. Breish says medication reviews, or “de-prescribing,” are a key reason.
“Basically, analyzing what medications you’re on, and making an informed decision about whether or not it needs to be continued,” he said.
More than one third of those over 62 are on at least 5 prescription drugs and over 60% use an herbal or dietary supplement.
The older you get, the harder it is to clear medicines from your body and Dr. Breish says there’s often a “medication cascade” – one drug for a condition, then others to manage side effects.
A geriatrician’s input can also keep seniors functioning better, longer.
“We learn to work with experts across different fields of expertise – your physical therapist, your pharmacists, rehab physicians,” said Dr. Breish.
And that can make a big difference in quality of life.
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