December 16, 2021
If your young child suddenly developed an illness, who would you call? It’s a no-brainer; many parents have the phone number on speed dial for the pediatrician they’ve meticulously selected to oversee the health care needs of their children. Due to their specialized training, working with a trusted pediatrician ensures the best possible care.
Similarly, choosing a physician for senior loved ones who specializes in senior-friendly health care is just as important. However, the health care system as a whole has not placed a great focus on the distinct health care needs of seniors. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains her concern 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 provide medical students with additional training in geriatrics, such as a focus on a holistic approach to older adult care – evaluating the body as a whole. It’s important for older adults to have a reliable geriatrician who’s able to manage and put together the effects of the often multiple specialists an older patient sees. As a matter of 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 nurses and doctors – is essential to overcome ageism and make certain older adults obtain the level of care they need and deserve.
Additionally, older adults and their family caregivers may want to investigate the services of a geriatrician as their primary care physician. Not to be confused with 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.
There are nearly 7,000 certified geriatricians in the U.S., according to the American Society of Geriatrics. They recommend assessing prospective geriatricians by asking the following types of questions:
- What training and certification have you received?
- Do you accept my insurance plan?
- Will you collaborate with the rest of my healthcare team?
- How is communication handled – texts about prescription refills, email appointment reminders, etc.?
- What is your guiding philosophy?
Schedule an in-person visit with the geriatrician for an introductory consultation, and evaluate additional details, such as:
- Is the office easily accessible?
- Is there sufficient parking?
- Are the staff respectful and courteous?
- Does the geriatrician speak directly to the senior?
- Do questions receive comprehensive answers?
Make note of your gut feelings. If any warning signs are noted, you may want to consider searching further to ensure the geriatrician selected is an individual both you and the senior loved one are fully comfortable with.
At Continuum, our home care management team is fully trained in providing respectful, specialized care for older adults in the comfort and familiarity of home. Call us any time at (314) 863-9912 or (636) 861-3336 for help and support or for additional information about our customized home care services.