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What is a Geriatrician and How Do I Know If I Need One?

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As you grow older, you may find that your healthcare needs change. You may have developed a condition that often comes with aging, such as osteoporosis, or require more medication. 

Because of your needs, you may see a healthcare provider more frequently, or appointments may be longer. You may have more questions about your health, and you want someone who understands your needs and concerns. 

If this is the case for you, you may want to see a board-certified geriatrician. Geriatricians are primary care doctors who specialize in treating older patients, typically people 65 years of age and up. They undergo the same training as a primary care physician but take an extra year or two to learn specifically about treating older patients. 

The problem is that not everyone knows board-certified geriatricians exist. As a result, they may not be getting the optimal care. This article will help you learn more about these providers. We’ll also help you answer the question, “How do I find geriatrician doctors near me?” 

Why are Geriatrician Doctors Important?

You may be happy with your primary care physician — and that’s great. You don’t have to switch if you don’t want to. But board-certified geriatricians are useful in the aging well process. Geriatricians focus on the 4Ms of aging-well health systems. These are:

  • What Matters: Doctors should seek to understand your health goals, including your desired outcomes. 

  • Medication: Doctors should aim to use age-appropriate medications as necessary and ensure it aligns with your specific goals. 

  • Mentation: Doctors should attempt to prevent, identify, treat and manage delirium.

  • Mobility: Doctors should encourage you to move each day safely. This movement will help you function. Walking or rolling in a wheelchair around your yard, block or care facility is a great way to get gentle movement.

Because board-certified geriatricians are focused on these values, they can help guide you through issues you may be having, such as functional decline, and provide solutions that align with your goals. For example, if you want to have the energy to play with your grandkids, you can speak with a geriatrician about finding a medication that doesn’t make you feel fatigued.

How Do I Know If I Should See a Geriatrician?

There are a few reasons why you might want to consider switching to a geriatrician, including:

  • You have multiple conditions. Perhaps you have conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis or diabetes. The risks for these conditions increase with age, and geriatricians are often more well-versed in managing them than doctors without the same specialized training.

  • You’re experiencing physical or cognitive decline. You may not have been diagnosed with any conditions, but you feel frailer or like you are having trouble completing everyday tasks. A geriatrician may help. These doctors can diagnose and treat any issues you might have in a way that aligns with your overall wishes of aging well. 

  • You’re on multiple medications. Medications for one condition may affect a medicine you are taking for something else. They also come with side effects that may not be in line with your goals to age well. A geriatrician is more familiar with helping patients work through these decisions.

How to Find Geriatricians Near You

finding a geriatrician is important as you age as they specialize in people suffering from similar ailments

You may be interested in seeing a board-certified geriatrician but wondering, “How do I find geriatrician doctors near me?” There are a few different ways you can find a provider close to you.

  • Ask your current doctor. If your current doctor doesn’t specialize in geriatric care, they may be able to provide you with a referral to someone who does. There also may be someone within the practice you could see instead. This conversation may feel awkward — you’re essentially telling your doctor you would like to see someone else. However, doctors hear this all the time. They want what’s best for you. You can simply try, “I’ve been happy with my care here, but I’m interested in seeing a board-certified geriatrician. Who would you recommend?”

  • Call insurance. Your insurance company (or Medicaid or Medicare) should have a listing of in-network providers.

  • Speak to family and friends. Some of the best recommendations come from people we know. Ask loved ones if they or someone they know saw a geriatrician they liked. 

What to Look for in a Geriatrician 

Every patient is different. A doctor that met your friend’s needs may not meet yours, and that’s OK. When evaluating a board-certified geriatrician, consider these qualities:

  • Training. You want someone who is trained in geriatric care. As if the provider is board-certified. 

  • Bedside manner and communication. Doctors don’t simply help you manage physical health conditions. Often, your mental health is tied to how you are feeling physically. You also may prefer to receive news and advice in a particular way, such as a kind tone versus matter-of-fact. Perhaps you’d like a doctor who gives multiple options when possible instead of giving you just one idea for a treatment course. Speak to your physician about their approach and communication style to ensure you receive the best comprehensive care.

  • Availability. Make sure the doctor accepts your insurance and has appointments available. Ask about whether it’s possible to make last-minute appointments if you’re feeling sick and where the physician refers after-hours care.  

Geriatrician doctors can be valuable assets to your care team and your goals to age well. To find one that works for you, get referrals from friends, family, your current doctor and insurance. Then, look for one that is accessible and whose style aligns with your needs and values.

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