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Geriatrics Frequently Asked Questions

What is a geriatrician?

A geriatrician is a primary care physician who cares for older adults, especially people 65 and older. Geriatricians have the additional training and experience needed to care for older adults, who often begin to experience more complex health issues as they age.

What conditions do geriatricians treat?

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There are many conditions that geriatricians treat in older adults, including:

  • arthritis: inflammation of your joints that causes pain and stiffness
  • Alzheimer’s disease: a progressive form of dementia that affects your memory, thinking, and behavior
  • balance issues: problems caused by weakened hips, ankles, and inner ear disorders
  • cancer: a group of diseases caused by abnormal cells that divide and can spread throughout your body
  • dementia: a condition that affects your memory, thinking, behavior, and language
  • diabetes: a metabolic disease that can damage your nerves, kidneys, and other organs
  • frailty: the gradual decline and weakening of your health, marked by loss of physical strength and increased vulnerability to diseases
  • hearing loss and vision loss: common disorders of your ears and eyes marked by loss of function
  • heart disease: a wide range of cardiovascular diseases that damage heart functionality
  • insomnia: a sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall and stay asleep
  • osteoarthritis: a loss of cartilage in your joints that causes pain and stiffness
  • osteoporosis: a loss of bone density that causes your bones to grow weaker
  • urinary incontinence: a loss of bladder control

What procedures do geriatricians perform?

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There are five areas geriatricians use to categorize an older adult’s care, including:

  • matters most: patients dealing with palliative or end-of-life care
  • medication: patients who have trouble managing and taking multiple medications
  • mind: patients with cognitive and behavioral health issues
  • mobility: patients who are prone to falling or who have lost mobility
  • multi-complexity: patients who manage ongoing injuries and chronic illnesses

Some of the most common procedures geriatricians perform include:

When should I go to a geriatrician?

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The age at which you start seeing a geriatrician depends on many factors, including your lifestyle, chronic conditions, medications, and more.

You may want to visit a geriatrician if you:

  • are interested in receiving lifestyle guidance as an older adult
  • have experienced increased frailty or impairment
  • have started to feel symptoms of diseases associated with aging, such as dementia
  • live with chronic conditions that require complex care
  • take multiple medications

What can I expect from my first geriatrician appointment?

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Your first appointment with a geriatrician will be similar to starting a new relationship with a primary care physician. Expect your doctor to ask about your medical history, medications you take, conditions you’re living with, or any symptoms you’re experiencing.

Your geriatrician will also conduct a physical exam, may recommend blood work or other diagnostic tests, and will likely provide counsel about lifestyle changes you can make to improve your quality of life.

What questions should I ask my geriatrician?

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It’s important that you prepare for your appointment with a geriatrician. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of good questions to ask your doctor:

  • Are you willing to coordinate your work with other doctors?
  • Can you describe your referral process?
  • Should I still see my primary care physician (PCP), or will you become my new PCP?
  • Which of my medical concerns should take priority?
  • Am I taking the right medications and at the correct doses?
  • Do I need to take all of these medications?
  • What are the side effects of these medications?
  • What can I do to reduce my pain and discomfort?
  • How often should I schedule appointments?

You can use these questions as a starting point, but feel free to add your own. A good practice is to also ask for additional information and take notes during your appointment.