If your child developed a high fever, who would you call? It’s a no-brainer; many parents have the number programmed on their phone for the pediatrician they have carefully chosen to manage the medical care needs of their children. With their specialized training, working with a trusted pediatrician ensures the best possible care.
Likewise, choosing a physician for senior loved ones who focuses on senior health care concerns is just as important. Yet sadly, the health care system in general has not placed a great focus on the unique health care needs of older adults. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, explains her alarm over this age-related health care gap, and just how little professors in medical school are focused on caring for senior patients.
In fact, looking back at 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 has been a new move to provide medical students with increased geriatric training, such as a focus on a holistic strategy to older adult care – thinking about the body as a whole. It’s important for older adults to have a dependable geriatrician who’s able to supervise and piece together the results of the often multiple specialists a senior patient sees. As a matter of fact, providing additional education for anyone who comes in contact with older adults in a medical setting – from hospital receptionists to EMTs and triage workers to nurses and doctors – is crucial to fight ageism and ensure older adults obtain the standard of care they need and deserve.
In addition, older adults and their family caregivers might want to investigate the services of a geriatrician as their primary care physician. Not to be mistaken for gerontologists, who specialize in aging-related issues but are not medical doctors, geriatricians are board-certified physicians who have finished a fellowship in geriatric medicine and have passed the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam.
According to the American Society of Geriatrics, there are approximately 7,000 certified geriatricians in the United States. They suggest evaluating potential geriatricians by asking the following types of questions:
- What certification and training have you received?
- Do you accept my insurance policy?
- Will you collaborate with all members of my healthcare team?
- How is communication handled – email appointment reminders, texts about prescription refills, etc.?
- What is your driving philosophy?
Visit the geriatrician for an introductory consultation, and evaluate additional details such as:
- Is the office easily accessible?
- Is there adequate parking?
- Is the staff respectful and courteous?
- Does the geriatrician speak directly to the senior?
- Do questions receive comprehensive answers?
Pay attention to your gut feelings. If any red flags are noted, you might want to consider searching further to be sure that the geriatrician selected is someone you and your loved one are completely comfortable with.
Are you or a loved one on the search for age-friendly health care? At Hillendale Home Care, providers of compassionate home based care services in Berkeley and surrounding communities, our staff are thoroughly trained in providing respectful, specialized care for seniors in the comfort of home. Reach out to us any time online or at 925-933-8181 for help and support or to learn more about our personalized home care services.