doctor talking with senior

Learn more about age-friendly health care and geriatricians.

If your child developed a high fever out of the blue, who would you call? It’s a no-brainer; many parents have their pediatrician’s number on speed dial to have ready access to the person they carefully chose to manage their child’s medical care needs. Due to their specialized training, working with a trusted pediatrician ensures the best possible care.

Similarly, settling on a health care provider who focuses on senior health care concerns is just as important for seniors. Yet, unfortunately, the health care system in general has not placed much focus on the unique health care needs of older adults, so age-friendly health care is lacking. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, shares her worries over this age-related health care gap, and just how little professors in medical school are focused on elder care.

In fact, reflecting on her own residency, she shares, “We literally did the same thing for forty-year-olds as we did for eighty-year-olds, and we’d treat all eighty-year-olds the same whether they’re dependent or independent, have limited life expectancy or complete life expectancy, and that just didn’t sit well with me.”

Fortunately, there is a new push to offer med students increased training in geriatrics, including a focus on a holistic strategy to senior care – thinking about the body as a whole. It’s vital for seniors to have a trusted geriatrician who’s able to oversee and piece together the effects of the often multiple specialists an older adult patient sees. In fact, providing additional education for anyone who comes in contact with seniors in a medical setting – from hospital receptionists to EMTs and triage workers to doctors and nurses – is crucial to fight ageism and make sure that seniors get the quality age-friendly health care they require and deserve.

In addition, seniors and their family caregivers may want to research the services of a geriatrician as their primary care physician. Not to be mistaken for gerontologists, who specialize in aging-related matters but are not medical doctors, geriatricians are board-certified physicians who have completed a fellowship in geriatric medicine and have also passed the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam.

According to the American Society of Geriatrics, there are approximately 7,000 certified geriatricians in the United States. They recommend assessing potential geriatricians by asking the following types of questions:

  • Do you accept my insurance plan?
  • What certification and training have you received?
  • How is communication handled – email appointment reminders, texts about prescription refills, etc.?
  • Will you work with all members of my healthcare team?
  • What is your guiding philosophy?

Schedule an in-person visit with the geriatrician for an opening consultation, and assess additional details such as:

  • Is there plenty of parking?
  • Is the office easy to access?
  • Does the geriatrician speak directly to the older adult?
  • Are the staff respectful and courteous?
  • Do questions receive comprehensive answers?

Pay attention to your gut feelings. If you notice any red flags, you might want to consider searching further to be sure that the geriatrician selected is an individual both you and the senior are fully comfortable with.

At Atlanta Home Care Partners, our care team members are fully trained in providing compassionate, skilled, care for older adults in the comfort of home. Contact us any time at 404-228-0103 or online for help and support or for additional information about our customized home care services and elderly care in Atlanta and the surrounding areas.