A Geriatrics Q&A
What is a geriatric specialist?
Geriatrics is a subspecialty of internal medicine that focuses on the health of elderly people. There isn’t a set age at which patients may be under the care of a geriatrician or physician who specializes in the care of elderly people. Rather this decision is determined by the individual patient’s needs and the availability of a specialist.
The aim of geriatrics is to promote health by preventing, treating and discussing disability in older patients. This subspecialty differs from standard adult medicine because there is a focus on the unique needs of the elderly person. The functional decline of various organ systems can lead to the development of diseases and more complications from mild problems. For example, dehydration can result easily from mild “gastroenteritis.” Also multiple problems may be compounded. A mild fever in an elderly patient may cause confusion, which can lead to a fall and a fracture of the hip.
What do elderly patients need to consider regarding medication?
Elderly patients require specific attention to medications. They are specifically subjected to polypharmacy, which translates into taking multiple medications at once. This can result in severe drug interactions and may cause some adverse health reactions.
It is also important to realize that most medications are excreted by the kidney or liver. However kidney or liver functions tend to decline with age. Dosages need to be adjusted as a person ages in order to avoid adverse effects.
How are elderly patients diagnosed differently than middle-aged patients?
Disease presentation may be vague and non-specific in elderly people. For example, pneumonia may present as a low-grade fever, dehydration, confusion or a fall, rather than the high fever and cough seen in middle-aged adults.
Some elderly people may find it hard to describe their symptoms in words, especially if the disease is causing confusion. Confusion in the elderly can be the result of a minor problem such as constipation or by something as serious as a heart attack. Many of these problems are treatable if the root cause can be discovered.
Osteoporosis is a major health concern among the elderly. What do people need to know to stay healthy?
Osteoporosis is the main cause of bone fractures in elderly people. The most common fractures are of the spine, hip and wrist. Although these fractures may be followed by full recovery, chronic pain, disability or even death can occur. A patient with a hip fracture has a 10 to 20 percent chance of death within the first year and a 10 percent chance of another osteoporosis-related fracture within the first year. Also, about 60 percent never regain a normal lifestyle or their pre-fracture level of independence. The physicians at Marion Heart Associates evaluate the risk of developing osteoporosis. They perform preventive care with a bone density study and prescribing appropriate medications to prevent osteoporosis.
What is the benefit of seeing a geriatric specialist rather than a primary care physician?
The team of physicians at Marion Heart Associates focuses on the entire patient. That means treating all aspects of his or her physical, mental and emotional health, as well as his or her abilities and resources at hand, not just the isolated medical problem the patient has at the moment. Also, the physicians focus on the functioning state of patients, as there may not always be a cure. Appropriate treatment can help with improving their quality of life.
The geriatric specialists at Marion Heart Associates allow the patient to have a two-in-one physician—primary care and geriatrics. This leads to excellent comprehensive care with best-case scenario outcomes.
Marion Heart Associates, P.A.
1805 SE Lake Weir Avenue, Ocala
9410 SW Hwy 200, Ste. 403, Ocala
Hospital privileges at: Munroe Regional Medical Center, West Marion Hospital, Ocala Regional Medical Center
marionheartassociates.com provides plenty of information about the various medical conditions treated at the facility.