If your young child developed a high fever, who would you call? It’s a no-brainer; many parents have the number on speed dial for the pediatrician they have carefully selected to oversee the medical care needs of their children. With their specialized training, working with a trustworthy pediatrician ensures the best possible care.
Likewise, selecting a physician for older loved ones who specializes in health care for seniors is just as essential. Yet unfortunately, the health care system as a whole has not placed a great focus on the distinct health care needs of seniors. Dr. Carla Perissinotto, geriatrician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, shares her worries over this age-related health care gap, and how little professors in med school are focused on elder care.
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.”
Thankfully, there is a new move to offer med students with further geriatric training, including a focus on a holistic strategy to senior care – thinking about the body in its entirety. It is important for older adults to have a trusted geriatrician who’s able to supervise and piece together the results of the often multiple specialists an older adult patient sees. In fact, providing additional instruction 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 require and deserve.
Furthermore, older adults and their family caregivers might want to research the services of a geriatrician as their primary care physician. Not to be mistaken for gerontologists, who concentrate on aging-related issues but are not medical doctors, geriatricians are board-certified physicians who have finished a fellowship in geriatric medicine and have also passed the Geriatric Medicine Certification Exam.
There are nearly 7,000 certified geriatricians in the U.S., according to the American Society of Geriatrics. They suggest assessing prospective geriatricians by asking the following questions:
- What training and certification have you received?
- Do you accept my insurance policy?
- Will you work with the rest of my healthcare team?
- How is communication handled – texts about prescription refills, email appointment reminders, etc.?
- What is your driving philosophy?
Schedule an in-person visit with the geriatrician for a preliminary consultation, and evaluate additional details such as:
- Is the office easily accessible?
- Is there sufficient parking?
- Are the staff courteous and respectful?
- Does the geriatrician speak directly to the older adult?
- Are questions answered thoroughly?
Don’t dismiss your gut feelings. If any red flags are noted, you might want to consider searching further to be sure that the geriatrician selected is an individual with whom you and the senior are completely comfortable.
At CareWorks Health Services, our caregivers are thoroughly trained in providing respectful, specialized care for older adults in the comfort and familiarity of home. Call us any time at (949) 859-4700 for help or for additional information about our personalized home health care in Mission Viejo, CA and nearby communities.