By Brian Heppard, MD
Are you ready to live a long life? Choosing the right health care provider for your age can help.
Just as pediatricians specialize in the growth and development of newborns through young adulthood, geriatricians help the elderly with age-related frailty and impairment maintain their best quality of life.
Serving as both the primary care provider and specialist, geriatricians focus on the prevention and treatment of disability and disease in older age. They provide family-centered care and work with a team of providers to address the medical, emotional, mental health and spiritual needs of patients and their family caregivers. Also, shared decision making around healthy aging, advanced care planning, and end of life care provide everyone with peace of mind.
Adapting to change, managing stress and bouncing back from illness becomes more challenging with age because of fewer physical, cognitive and social reserves. Trips to multiple specialists and invasive medical treatments often only complicate matters more.
Comfort with the complexity and ambiguity surrounding most eldercare situations requires geriatric expertise. By considering the patient’s age, values and current conditions, geriatricians help sort out the situation and find the best solution.
Also, unlike mainstream primary care providers, geriatricians understand the differences between each level of care in senior living settings. Working within the regulations that govern nursing homes and assisted living facilities, they’re able to access the resources necessary to make a positive impact on an elder’s health in these environments.
St. Ann’s Community embraces geriatric care as a complement to its continuum of care philosophy. What matters most to their residents, they say, is symptom control that enables them to function as long as possible with dignity, purpose and importance.
A few practices from days gone by help these physicians provide the best outcomes possible:
• Care Coordination — Transitions can leave families and patients feeling lost. The geriatrician understands what’s going on and how it affects the big picture. The doctor reviews medications, helps interpret directions and guides patients and families through the next steps of a loved one’s care while safeguarding the advanced directives in place.
• Quality Time — A 30-minute appointment every quarter is common practice for geriatricians, giving ample time to examine your loved one and consult with you and healthcare staff. The frequency picks up after an acute health event like hospitalization until the person’s stabilized.
• House Calls — Best of all, geriatricians provide care at home. Mobile X-ray and laboratory services bring phlebotomy and diagnostic testing there, too.
• Support for Caregivers — Having one doctor oversee medical issues frees family and friends to handle the many other responsibilities that come with caring for a loved one, including taking time for themselves.
To find a geriatrician, ask your loved one’s current primary care doctor for a referral. You might also find a local geriatrician through the Monroe County Medical Society website at www.mcms.org.
Brian Heppard is a medical doctor and certified medical director at St. Ann’s Community and Pillar Medical Associates, PC, a geriatrics practice providing outpatient care for seniors in assisted living and independent living. He is board-certified in family medicine, geriatrics, and hospice and palliative care. To learn more, visit www.pillarmedical.com.