What Is Geriatric Care and How Do I Find a Geriatrician?

Mike Olmos by Mike Olmos | Licensed since 2010
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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As people age and their health-care issues become more complex, they may see a number of different doctors and specialists. A doctor who specializes in treating the unique health needs of aging adults is called a geriatrician, and may be well suited to care for older people with multiple health conditions. A geriatrician, according to Healthinaging.org, is usually board-certified in either family practice or internal medicine and typically has completed a program leading to certification in geriatric care.

What is geriatric care?

Geriatric care is health care that centers around older adults, who may have more than one health issue or face difficulties with daily living tasks, says HealthinAging.org. A geriatrician may also be able to help you manage multiple prescription medications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), three in four Americans over the age of 65 have one or more chronic health conditions. Each of these conditions may require different management, and often times, different medications. In addition, the doctor who manages arthritis, for example, may not always be the same doctor who manages diabetes or osteoporosis. This can be confusing for the patient and even lead to situations in which the treatment prescribed for one illness can actually worsen the symptoms of another, reports HealthinAging.org.

A geriatrician leading a geriatric care team treats the patient in a holistic way, overseeing all of his care. A geriatrician is equipped to manage the common illnesses and diseases that affect older people and understands the way different medications interact with one another and affect seniors’ more fragile systems. In addition, a geriatric care team can ask about the patient’s home life and support system to make sure their patients are able to keep up with any treatment recommendations at home to keep them healthy, according to the American Geriatrics Society.

Your geriatric care team might include any of the following professionals (or others):

  • Geriatrician
  • Registered nurse
  • Social worker
  • Pharmacist
  • Nutritionist/dietician
  • Physical therapist
  • Other therapists such as speech or occupational

Your geriatrician and geriatric care team makes sure that you understand your treatment plan, have the resources you need to manage your conditions, and consider your wishes in planning your care.

Do I need a geriatrician?

Consulting a geriatrician can help people who have multiple chronic health issues. It may be a good idea to see a geriatrician if any of the following applies to you or your loved one, according to HealthinAging.org:

  • Over age 75 and/or have more than two chronic health conditions.
  • Has some level of cognitive impairment (memory problems) and/or physical disability
  • Lives alone or with caregivers who are under significant stress
  • Sees more than one doctor to treat various medical conditions
  • Finds it difficult to manage and/or understand prescription drug therapies.

How do I choose a geriatrician?

The National Library of Medicine suggests guidelines for choosing any doctor:

  • Does she or he accept Medicare assignment? If not, you might end up paying more than the Medicare-approved amount for medical services.
  • Is it easy to get to the office, and are the office hours convenient? After-hours care?
  • Do you feel comfortable talking to the doctor and understand his or her explanations?

And if you’re looking for a geriatrician specifically, you may want to add:

  • Is he or she board-certified in geriatriccare?

If you live in an area with more than one hospital and you have a preference for where you get care, it’s also a good idea to make sure your geriatrician has admitting privileges at the Medicare approved hospital you prefer.

Does Medicare cover geriatrician office visits?

Under Original Medicare (Part A and Part B), allowable charges for doctor visits, including geriatricians, may be covered under your Part B benefits. The geriatrician must accept Medicare assignment, and a copayment and deductible may apply. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), your plan may require a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a geriatrician.

If you’d like to know more about Medicare coverage for geriatric care, I’d be happy to answer your questions. You can schedule a phone call or get information emailed to you by clicking one of the buttons below. To learn more about plans in your area that you may qualify for, click the “Compare Plans” button.

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