What is Geriatric Care?
As you help your parents or other aging family members with their medical care and living arrangements, you’ll run into the phrase “geriatric care” more and more often. Exactly what is geriatric care? The phrase covers a lot of territory, including specialized medical care and case-management services. Here’s what you need to know and how to find the help you may need.
The two main categories of geriatric care are medical care by a doctor who specializes in older adults and care-coordination services by geriatric case managers. These doctors and managers often work together to ensure that the patient, family members, and other caregivers all have the same information about medications, diet, exercise routines, daily schedules, and any other patient needs.
Doctors who provide geriatric care
In an ideal world, all seniors with complex health problems would have a geriatrician as their doctor. That’s because as we age, our bodies change. Some medications affect older adults more strongly than younger adults, and some no longer work well or safely. Older adults with an infection are more likely to experience rapid dehydration and a condition called delirium. Both are medical emergencies. Sicker seniors are more likely to suffer from what’s called polypharmacy, which happens when multiple doctors prescribe the patient different drugs that interact poorly or cause confusion.
Geriatricians consider all these factors and more when treating their patients. They also focus on the emotional needs of people who are coming to terms with needing extra care, and they work with family members and other caregivers to create a safe living environment for their patients. The American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging website recommends that seniors with health problems that seriously impair them or make them frail should see a geriatrician. So should seniors whose family caregivers are over-stressed by providing care.
Your family doctor may be able to refer you to a geriatrician. You can also use the Health in Aging search tool to find nearby family physicians and internists who are certified in geriatrics.
Geriatric care managers
Health care is just one part of the puzzle for seniors who need geriatric care. You’ll also need to arrange for a safe living environment that provides social contact, a proper diet, and some sort of exercise or regular activity. Everyone who cares for your parent or loved one needs to know the medication schedule, menu plan, daily schedule, and symptoms or behaviors that warrant a call to the doctor. A geriatric care manager can oversee this communication. Care management is especially helpful for family members who live far away and it’s crucial for seniors with round-the-clock care needs and multiple caregivers.
A geriatric care manager can also help your family sort out issues such as finding new housing, locating reliable eldercare attorneys, hiring a financial advisor, and helping mediate issues between the family and your loved one’s nursing home or assisted living facility.
To find a qualified geriatric care manager, ask your doctor or geriatrician for referrals. You can also use the Aging Life Care Association site to find more information and certified care managers in your city or town.