A geriatric doctor or geriatrician is a physician who has the same training as regular primary care doctors, with one to five years extra of specialized geriatric education and training. Geriatric doctors treat the complex medical needs of older patients.
As a caregiver, you may wonder whether this geriatric care is right for your loved one. Although the answer to that question could seem obvious, there are several factors to consider. There is a nationwide shortage of geriatric physicians, and if there is one in your community, their practice might be full.
The second consideration is what your loved one wants. Many older adults have spent years with the same doctor, and whether that person is meeting their needs or not, they are reluctant to change healthcare providers. Just because a primary care physician is not a geriatric specialist doesn’t mean they aren’t a good doctor.
To practice geriatric medicine, a Geriatrician completes four years of medical school and then an additional three to five years of a full-time residency program in geriatrics. Some geriatricians have a board certification in geriatrics, but it is not a requirement. They can be primary care providers, internists or family practice doctors. Most older adults do not see a primary care provider in addition to a geriatric physician.
Older adults suffer from a variety of medical conditions that require geriatric expertise. Let’s look at the benefits of choosing a geriatric physician.
As a family caregiver, you may not feel that your loved one’s current physician is meeting all of their needs. It is better to consider a geriatric physician as soon as you can in case you need to get on a waiting list. Even older adults in very good health often choose a geriatric physician. Other triggers to look for in your loved one:
There are several ways to search for Geriatric Physician, and if you have more than one choice, consider location and accessibility. Here are some ways to find a geriatric physician:
A geriatric physician like most primary care, family medicine, and internal medicine doctors accepts Medicare reimbursement for their services. If you have traditional Medicare with a secondary, you can go to any geriatric doctor who accepts Medicare and most costs will be covered.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan check with your plan and provider to ensure that they are in-network. Also, ask about any expected co-pays.
A geriatric appointment could be very different from what you have experienced with a primary care physician. Typically, the visit will be a much longer consultation and may require additional paperwork before the appointment. In general, you can expect the following at your first appointment:
Having a geriatric physician to guide your loved one through the aging process can give you much-needed support and peace of mind as a caregiver. Take your time in searching for a geriatric doctor that has the skill and personality to connect with you and the person you care for, thus improving both their quality of life, and yours.
A Nationally Certified Care Manager and a member of The Aging Life Care Association, with 25+ years of experience working with elders.